Zoning change could allow for new hotel along Gay Street

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Historic Gay Street is one of the most popular places to visit in Downtown Knoxville. However, have you ever noticed there’s one part that’s empty and a parking lot? Now there’s a plan to build a hotel in that space.

The parking lot sits between Chivo and the Mast General Store. The Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project, Jack Neely, explained that hasn’t always been the case.

“The great fire of 1897 destroyed almost all of the 400 block of Gay Street,” said Neely. “It says something about Knoxville in 1897 that it immediately built up.”

Neely went on to explain that there was also a second fire was in 1974 at the same location. “For whatever reason, it’s kind of surprising that gap has been there, has been there ever since then,” he said.

Now the current owner has plans to put up a hotel in the space. Joe Petre, the current owner’s representative, says the plan for a hotel and multiuse building is why they applied to get the zoning changed. The Knoxville-Knox County Planning Commission approved the change last week. Now, there are no height restrictions for whatever gets built there.

“If he is able to do the hotel project there, more rooms is good because more people are coming, there’s more to do downtown,” said the current owner’s representative, Joe Petre with Lawler-Wood, LLC.

Kim Bumpas with Visit Knoxville said it’s an exciting venture for the entire community. “Our downtown properties, per se, especially the ones that are being developed along Gay Street are doing quite well with our leisure travelers,” said Bumpas.

Jack Neely agreed. “You walk through downtown and you see tourists all the time,” he said. “You see people with their kids, and people with cameras, and they’ve got maps, and they’re looking at the buildings in the ways that people who live here don’t do.”

The next steps for the zoning change include requiring approval from the Knoxville City Council. That vote is scheduled for the October 5th meeting. Then, the design phase can commence.

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