Knoxville's L&N building may need too many renovations for STEM

L&N building may need too many renovations for STEM academy


6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County officials will take more time to decide on the location for a new STEM academy because the historic L&N building may need more extensive renovations than first thought.

Meanwhile a group of businesses in L&N is waiting to hear if they need to start packing.

The academy would focus on high school science, technology and math and would occupy the L&N building at World's Fair Park.

Nearly a dozen business are currently renting office space in the building.

Moving out would be tough for Chuck Morris. It's been home to his marketing and public relations firm, Morris Creative Group, since 1997.

"It's a beautiful space," said Morris. "We all kind of have a window office and have a view of the park. It's nice and open."

Knox County Schools announced the proposal for a STEM academy in the building in October.

"Our landlord told us about two days before the press conference," Morris said. "My reaction is just that I'm surprised and perhaps a little sad."

Morris is already looking for a new space downtown. As for a school, he said, "It's an interesting idea. I guess I'd have to see the plans to know what I really think about it, but I have to admit the idea of a STEM school being downtown in kind of the center city core is kind of a neat idea."

Upstairs, the owner of the graphic design firm, Local Color Ink, says no one told her about the plans and she doesn't know where she'll go.

"I'm heartbroken because this is a haven for me or any creative type, being on the World's fair site and in such a historic building," Tammy Henderson said. 

The business owners say the school system could have their hands full with renovations.

Henderson's office has no permanent light fixtures, and part of the ceiling is crumbling. "We have problems with heating and air. Some rooms are cold, cold, cold, while others are burning up," she said. 

Morris said his office also had to be gutted and remodeled in 2001 after a fire. "They traced it to some wiring. You've got an old building. There have been multiple tenants in this building for a number of years so you've got lots of different wiring going everywhere."

There are currently 11 businesses in the building, including a magazine, photographer, a group of architects and a non profit group.

Those that spoke with 6 News say they have no timeline for when they need to be out, but everyone is looking for new space.

Knox County School Board Chair Indya Kincannon says plans to vote on the L&N for the site of the STEM academy the first week of December have been postponed.

Kincannon says the school system needs to gather more information on things like HVAC, wiring and renovation costs.

There is no timeline yet on when the issue could be brought before the school board.

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