Eager local preservation groups, who claim they are not responsible for the city’s pressure on residents to move out so the building could be preserved, are helping to collect plans from developers to come in and rennovate the property. The plans approved by the preservation groups will be submitted to KCDC for final city approval. Once KCDC gives the greenlight, public funding will be released and redevelopment will begin.
Plans that have been submitted so far are very diverse, as the property could serve a wide variety of purposes. A plan gaining momentum among preservation groups involves turning the property into an upscale hotel to house visitors to Knoxville’s convention center. A KAT bus would be available to carry visitors, or a sidewalk will be available for those wishing to walk or bike to their convention. An early proposal to install a monorail system between the hotel and the convention center was rejected, however.
Another plan would involve bringing the hotel up to code and then turning it into low-income housing. Joe Urban, a proponent of this plan, said “There just isn’t enough housing for low-income people in the 5th Avenue or Magnolia area. Every time low-income residents find a suitable place, the city condemns the property and we have to redevelop it into a Weigle’s or something. This would be a great opportunity to reverse that trend and also preserve a historic building.” When asked about the historic nature of the building, Urban responded bluntly, “It’s old.”
A rather controversial plan would have the hotel redeveloped into a pay-by-the hour operation, catering to people too busy to sleep all night. Opponents claim this plan would attract the wrong type of people to the 5th Avenue area.
Whatever becomes of the property, the preservation societies ensure anyone who will listen that the hotel will be restored to its original glory as an office building built in 1913 which was later converted to a hotel in the 1960s.