It could take up to three years, but Knoxville City Mayor Madeline Rogero’s already looking forward to the changes a mixed-use plan for South Knoxville’s former Baptist Hospital campus could bring.
“The redevelopment’s been on hold because of the downturn in the economy years ago,” Rogero says.
“This is the prime real estate piece of the South Waterfront, so having this go to the kind of development that was described, I think is going to be a huge catalyst to the rest of the South waterfront, and I think we’ll start to see other property owners starting to reinvest,” she says.
Redevelopment at the site of the former Baptist Hospital campus on the South Knoxville riverfront coincides with development at nearby Suttree Landing Park. Developer Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial will handle the Baptist Hospital campus project; the city is working to create the park.
“We want this kind of reinvestment and so we will work with them very closely to jump through all the hoops that are necessary,” Rogero says.
“The number of people that will work or live in these facilities - it’s going to be a boon to the businesses in South Knoxville, I think it will help - and to downtown, both,” she says.
The Augusta, Georgia company Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial plans to demolish most of the former Baptist Hospital campus.
Plans include retrofitting two existing office buildings and a parking deck across the street from the riverfront campus while razing the remainder of the campus.
“Basically everything along the riverfront extending to Henley Street Bridge, current plans are that we would remove them and demolish them. We have explored different ideas of trying to renovate and we’ve done a lot of renovation over time; it seems that the most logical and most proper use of the land is to redevelop the property,” says Blanchard and Calhoun CEO Victor Mills.
Mills says the new site plan includes 300 luxury apartments, single-bedroom apartment suites for around 700 to 800 students, a 150-room hotel, and retail space.
“We hope to start the demolition early next year, then the build back after that’s going to be a couple of years,” he says. “So the total build out’s probably three years - that’s a reasonable time frame, assuming the economy continues to chug along.”
The plans also include a public walkway along the riverfront side of the development between the Gay Street and Henley Street bridges.
While initial plans put a walkway along the river’s edge, the current plan moves the river walk to the bluff above the water.
“We’re dedicating 100% of the riverfront to public space,” says Mills. “We think by moving it up, it will be much more pedestrian-friendly,” says Mills. “Now we have been able to extend it between the bridges and a major corridor public space coming down the middle of the property.”
Mills says his first priorities during redevelopment are the office buildings, especially as they attempt to draw tenants, and student housing, which could be built during the demolition process and would need to be ready earlier than the rest of the project for student move-in dates.
“Needless to say it’s a very aggressive project, but you do it in pieces, and the pieces fit together,” says Mills.
According to a company statement, the total project is scheduled to be complete by mid-2015.