KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The first residential building at the site of Knoxville’s developing multiuse stadium will be named after an internationally acclaimed artist whose original childhood home once stood near the project. Beauford Delaney, one of the great painters of the Harlem Renaissance era, was born in Knoxville and his talent took him all over the world.
Officials say the name of the first building on the stadium site, “The Beauford Delaney Building” is the result of GEM Community Development Group’s partnership with a cultural and historical advisory committee led by Rev. Reneé Kesler, president of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. The multiuse stadium will be located in the heart of a neighborhood eliminated 50 years ago by urban renewal, including Delaney’s childhood home, which was dubbed the Riverfront-Willow Street project in an area known to residents as “The Bottom.”
“Beauford Delaney is by far the most important artist of the 20th century; his influence on the world of art cannot be overstated,” Kesler said. “His works are extensively exhibited in museums, galleries and private collections all over the world. Naming the first residential building in this location after our native son is a historic step toward prominently and intentionally exhibiting the rich legacy of Black heritage. GEM Community Development Group is making good on the promise to preserve Black history and culture in the heart of this community known as The Bottom.”
The cultural and historical advisory committee led by Kesler has advised the multiuse stadium’s development team from the beginning with an aim of being intentional about capturing the rich Black history and culture of the location of the project, as well as reflecting the multi-racial history of baseball in the community. Downtown Knoxville-based Partners Development will develop the $45 million project, and officials say the building is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024 to coincide with the Knoxville Smokies’ debut baseball season at the new stadium.
The Beauford Building is projected to be a nine-story residential structure that will boast 35 to 45 condos depending on final layout and will include underground parking for residential units; restaurant, retail and commercial space on the ground floor; and city-view units on the second and third floors. The fourth floor will be an amenity floor with an outdoor platform deck to view all stadium events, as well as grilling areas, fire pits and gathering spaces. The fourth floor also will contain fitness and business centers and a party room with a kitchen. Views of home plate will be available for units on the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth floors.
“We promised that this project would reflect the historical significance of the community and be true to its East Knoxville roots,” said Steve Davis, president of GEM Community Development Group, which derives its name from the historic Gem Theatre, a gathering point for the Black community that opened in 1913 and closed 50 years later. “Naming the first building after renowned artist Beauford Delaney and elevating cultural awareness is just one step in our efforts to preserve Black history at the stadium site.”
Officials say the original home of Delaney, a modernist painter born in 1901 Knoxville and considered among the greatest abstract painters of the 20th century, was razed decades ago and is now denoted by a historical marker on a hill that overlooks the project site. Delaney’s colorful, expressive style captured his experiences in Knoxville, Boston and New York City, where he was associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Delaney lived his final decades abroad in Paris, where he died in 1979, and he maintained close ties to Knoxville and his family throughout his life.
Knoxville City Council and Knox County Commission gave the green light for the publicly owned stadium in mid-November 2021. Construction is expected to start in 2022. Officials say the Sports Authority for Knoxville and Knox County will be finalizing arrangements for stadium construction, along with lease agreements with Boyd Sports, which will bring the Smokies, the Minor League Baseball Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, back to Knoxville from Sevier County. Boyd Sports is owned by Knoxville businessman and entrepreneur Randy Boyd.