KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The details to a plan years in the making to transform the Andrew Johnson Building back into a hotel are beginning to fill in. Renderings from developers BNA Associates call for a hotel with an eye looking back on the building’s musical past.
The building opened in downtown Knoxville in 1924 and was the tallest building in the city for decades. Plans for the 17-story hotel include 143 rooms, a 13,000-square-foot restaurant and music venue, and a 3,800-square-foot rooftop bar.
Chris Caldwell, finance director for Knox County, said BNA Associates’ new Hotel Americana plan means more jobs and increased revenues through hotel/motel and mixed drink taxes.
The building has been the home for Knox County Schools offices and other county government offices. BNA was the winning bidder for the building in 2017 and was approved for a 12-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, program by both the city and county in July 2021. Caldwell said the PILOT plan is likely to be reevaluated considering the developer’s proposed changes from micro-apartments to a hotel and the current cost of building materials.
Knox County Commission is slated to vote on a 90-day extension to close on the sale this month.
BNA has been waiting for Knox County Schools to relocate its offices to another location. The school board voted to move the school district’s central offices to the east TVA Tower in 2020. A county projection in November 2019 said KCS could save $63.3 million over a 40-year period as a result of the move.
“Sherrif’s merit, probation, and PBA finance are still in the building due to supply-chain issues related to furniture,” Caldwell said. “We asked BNA for this extension to give us time to move these departments to their respective new spaces, and they are cooperative. Without this extension, we would have to pay rent to BNA until we got everyone evacuated, so this is advantageous to us.”
The hotel hosted musical guests like Duke Ellington, Hank Williams Sr., and Russian composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff. Amelia Earhart also stayed at the hotel in 1936 during a trip to the Smokies, just a year before she disappeared during her circumnavigation flight around the world.