KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Josh Smith, a Knoxville businessman, developer and criminal justice reform advocate, has sold two properties in the 300 block of Gay Street for $7.3 million.

According to the news release, this is one of the highest values – if not the highest- Knoxville has seen to date. The Ephant Group, a real estate investment company, bought the building at 304 Gay Street, formerly Buzz Nabors Dentistry and Residence, and the neighboring 308 lot.

“The Ephant Group is excited about our latest acquisition of 304 South Gay St. (Friedman Loft), and we look forward to maintaining its historic foundation,” said Danielle Reva, COO of the Ephant Group.

Smith had been planning to develop the lot at 308 Gay Street with a seven-story mixed-use building but says he held off due to high building supply costs. He bought the properties about a year and a half ago for $3,775,000.

“I’m excited to be selling to a developer who is going to build something special and give Knoxville the first new build on Gay Street in almost 40 years,” said Smith. 

Smith says profits on investments like these allow him to do more for the Knoxville community and across the state. Previously, Smith used more than $10 million from selling his service company, Master Services, to start the Fourth Purpose Foundation, a prison reform nonprofit. The foundation is currently developing a historic hotel in Knoxville into supportive housing for formerly incarcerated men named Dogan-Gaither Flats.

Smith has been an advocate for criminal justice reform for over 15 years since he was released from prison. He was convicted in 1998 for his involvement in marijuana and cocaine trafficking and served a 5-year sentence in a Kentucky federal prison. President Donald Trump pardoned Smith in January 2021.