Apartments could be under way this year
A pool, parking and more than 200 apartments. That’s the plan for one of downtown Knoxville’s biggest undeveloped sites.
Nearly four years after he unveiled a project called Marble Alley, developer Buzz Goss on Friday announced plans for the project’s first phase, a 238-unit apartment project called Marble Alley Lofts.
At a news conference, Goss said the loft venture — to be developed in conjunction with Murfreesboro-based TDK Construction Co. — would use approximately 2.75 acres of the four-acre site, which is bounded by State Street, Commerce Avenue, South Central Street and Union Avenue.
Currently a surface parking lot, the site is owned by Knox County but Goss has an option to buy it.
The plan does not call for retail or commercial space, but Goss indicated that would come in a second phase. The developer said construction should begin late this year or early next year and be completed by 2015.
The buildings will be three to five stories tall and Kent Ayer, of TDK, said a one-bedroom studio would likely rent for around $850 a month. The plan calls for a swimming pool, private balconies for the apartment units and a 350-space parking garage.
If it happens, Marble Alley Lofts would represent a major advance in the ongoing renaissance of downtown Knoxville. Strong demand for apartments has resulted in the redevelopment of many old and historic buildings in the urban core, but new construction has been rare.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in the current environment is financing for ambitious construction projects. Ayer, of TDK, said the team is targeting
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 221(d)(4) program. According to HUD’s website, that program insures mortgage loans for multifamily residential projects, although there are no income limits for tenants.
Ayer emphasized that Marble Alley Lofts would not be a rent-subsidized or Section 8 development.
Goss estimated that the project will cost around $20 million, and indicated he doesn’t plan to seek a tax-increment financing incentive. He said the area’s demographics support the project, which he described as “one of those five-year overnight successes.”
Friday’s news conference drew strong support from local political figures, with Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero speaking in favor of it. Burchett referenced the fact that county officials had once considered putting a jail on the site, saying that “would have been a shame.”
“More people being downtown means more people supporting downtown businesses,” he said.