Unified arts district recommended

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Unified arts district recommended

Posted: 07/13/2005
Mayor Bill Haslam's administration will recommend to City Council at a Thursday workshop that space in downtown Knoxville's Emporium Building be built-out to accommodate arts and community uses currently located at the Candy Factory.

The administration's proposal would create a unified arts district at the north end of Gay Street that would also compliment the venues that have evolved further south on Gay Street with the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre, upcoming revitalization of the Bijou and the planned Regal Cinema. The Emporium Building, opened in July 2004, is home to the Arts & Culture Alliance of Knoxville and nine other arts and cultural organizations.

Additionally, the building houses studio and gallery space for individual artists and the University of Tennessee's Downtown Gallery. "Supporting the growing and energized arts district that is taking hold on Gay Street is a smart way for the City to promote a vibrant arts community, while creating an environment that encourages coordination and joint promotion," Mayor Haslam said. The Emporium's first floor contains about 5,000 square feet that would be built out to replicate the arts uses on the seventh floor of the Candy Factory, including dance studios and meeting rooms. The building's owner will make the space available to the City at $3.15 per square foot, far below market rate.The City would require World's Fair developer Kinsey Probasco Hayes to fund the $200,000 build-out at the Emporium.The administration's recommendation differs from the developer's original proposal to encourage arts uses in the Victorian Houses at the World's Fair Park.

After listening to many comments about the benefits of artists and arts organizations being located in one facility, the administration is recommending the Emporium as the best solution because it capitalizes on the arts district already forming on Gay Street and the City's investment in that district.Mayor Haslam announced in April 2004 the City's intention to redevelop its assets at World's Fair Park, which includes the Candy Factory, Victorian Houses and the Sunsphere. The buildings are in poor physical condition and significantly underused. The City issued a request for proposals to renovate the buildings for new uses, and selected Kinsey Probasco Hays to as the preferred developer. The selection process included public access to all the responses, and interviews by the evaluation committee with four finalists were open to the public. KPH's winning proposal included securing tenants and sharing in the cost of renovations necessary to reopen the Sunsphere, the only proposal that addressed a use for the Knoxville icon. The developer also has proposed purchasing and renovating the Candy Factory and Victorian Houses for primarily residential use. The City would realize roughly $1.8 million from the KPH plan. City Council's special workshop on World's Fair Park redevelopment will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 14, in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building.