Mayor wants to sell downtown building, relocate Knox school offices

Mayor wants to sell downtown building, relocate Knox school offices

The Andrew Johnson Building is at 912 South Gay Street. The Andrew Johnson Building is at 912 South Gay Street.

June 5, 2007

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Interest from developers has prompted the Knox County mayor to ask school officials to consider relocating their central office so their current downtown building can be sold.

Mayor Ragsdale says proceeds from the sale of the Andrew Johnson Building, at 912 South Gay Street, would go to relocating the central office staff and supporting construction of future schools.

Ragsdale writes to interim Superintendent Roy Mullins, "...we have had multiple developers express an interest in purchasing the Andrew Johnson Building. In each case, they were looking to convert the facility into a mixed-use space with a residential element." 

Relocation of school staff would be limited to "a reasonable proximity to downtown," Ragsdale writes with suitable space for offices and parking.

The school system takes up 14 of the 18 floors in the Andrew Johnson Building. It's also home to the Knox County probation office.

The Andrew Johnson Building opened as a 350 room upscale hotel in 1930. Each room had a window. In its hey day, the hotel had a pool, restaurant and dance area.

"It probably doesn't lend itself that effectively to office space so we think it may be under utilized. We've had interest over a number of occasions the past few years," says Mayor Ragsdale's spokesman, Dwight Van de Vate.

"I think folks who are interested in downtown and preservation would see that as a good thing," says Kim Trent, with Knox Heritage.

The Andrew Johnson Building has roughly 140,000 square feet of space. The school system uses about 100,000 of that. There are 250 full-time employees who work there.

The board of education would have to approve the relocation of offices. County commissioners would have to approve selling the Andrew Johnson Building.

The mayor says he plans to discuss the idea with county commission during the next few weeks. He asks Mullins to discuss it with the board of education.

6 News Anchor/Reporter Adam Longo contributed to this report.

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