KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A 130-year-old building in Knoxville’s Old City could soon be demolished as the race to redevelop the area around the forthcoming Knoxville mixed-use stadium heats up. A local history nonprofit has expressed concern that the trend could erase the area’s historic characteristics.
A demolition permit application has been filed for the warehouse building at 115 E. Jackson Avenue. Developer Jim Klonaris purchased the site in 2021 with plans for a multimillion project at the site called Excelsior Knoxville which would include apartments, a boutique hotel, restaurant, bar, and other amenities.
The existing building was constructed around 1890 as the Knoxville branch of the Armour Packing Company, a major national meat packing business from 1867 to 1983.
Klonaris said that multiple assessments of building, which contributes to Southern Terminal and Warehouse Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places, determined that preserving the building was not an option due to extreme structural issues and asbestos concerns.
Local nonprofit Knox Heritage released a statement expressing concern for, “the domino effect this type of project will have on the Old City’s historic fabric as the area grows in popularity alongside the development of the mixed-use stadium.”
“We strongly encourage the preservation of the historic façade as the building’s total demolition would set a precedent for removing smaller historic buildings and replacing with large new construction.”Knox Heritage
His company Spaces in the City owns and operates several Knoxville restaurants and event spaces in Kefi, The Vault, and the Square Room. Klonaris said they’re working to salvage what they can from the building and re-purpose historic elements like doors and wood from inside the building.
“We try to preserve where we can,” he said. “Every project we’ve done in Knoxville has been a preservation project, so this is a little bit unusual for us not to preserve.”
Klonaris also said the original façade was replaced in the late 20th century and what was originally two buildings is now one.
Due to the historical significance, the demolition permit application is subject to a 60-day delay. The demolition delay will expire March 13.
Site infrastructure work on the $80-million, 7000-seat multiuse stadium that was approved last year remains ongoing with construction slated to begin later this year. It is expected to be completed by 2025.
Tennessee Smokies Owner Randy Boyd has pledged to bring more than $100 million in private investment to the area, which would serve as one of several revenue sources for paying down the stadium debt.
Plans for the construction of a $22-million, 127-room hotel on E. Jackson Avenue was announced last year. The nearby Emporium building at the intersection of Gay Street and W. Jackson Avenue recently sold for over $20 million.