Developer still plans to renovate building damaged in fire

Developer still plans to renovate building damaged in fire

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"Seeing the brick walls and the fantastic truss system, they just don't build buildings like these anymore," David Dewhirst said. "Seeing the brick walls and the fantastic truss system, they just don't build buildings like these anymore," David Dewhirst said.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Crews were taking down part of what remains left of the east side of the Industrial Belting & Supply Company building on Thursday evening after a fire destroyed much of the structure.
     
The building's owner and prominent developer David Dewhirst had big plans for the old industrial building.

For the first time in the daylight, Dewhirst saw what's left of his future development.

"My partners and I had some interesting plans for these buildings," he said. "They didn't look like much before the fire, and they certainly don't look like much afterwards."

They purchased the more than 100-year-old building back in September, and it has sat vacant since.

There wasn't a specific plan for redevelopment, but commercial office space was a possibility. The appeal of this building was the older-style architecture.
 
"Seeing the brick walls and the fantastic truss system, they just don't build buildings like these anymore," Dewhirst said.

Redeveloping the Depot Avenue building was already part of Dewhirst's plan to expand his footprint into the north end of downtown.

He already owns two other properties within a few blocks of this site.

"We have to alter our vision on what we want to do on the north end of downtown a little bit, but until we get this cleaned up and peeled back a little bit, maybe we can find some other wrinkles to go," he said.

While the east side of the building is all but gone, the west side remains remarkably intact. Dewhirst thinks it can be salvaged.
     
"Hopefully we can work with some of the interesting elements," he said.

But perhaps the cruelest twist of fate, Dewhirst was expected to take possession of the building on the first of the month.

"We were 10 days away," he said.

Dewhirst has told investigators there problems with vagrants breaking into the building. He says it's hard to believe one couldn't have started this fire.

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