Knox developer gets green light for Marble Alley

6:34 PM, Mar 8, 2013   |    comments
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  • Architectural rendering of Marble Alley. Courtesy of Buzz Goss.
  • Architectural rendering of Marble Alley. Courtesy of Buzz Goss.

It looks like Downtown Knoxville is about to grow again, as one local developer pulls the trigger on a project he calls "Marble Alley."   Bordered by Central Avenue and State Street, it's an entire block that's sat undeveloped for more than a decade.

"This is going to be a large, new, multifamily residential project in downtown," said developer Buzz Goss.

He's the architect behind many renovated buildings in Knoxville. The crown jewel though is Marble Alley; it's been in the works for five years.
"There's going to be lofts, private parking, there will be a swimming pool," Goss explained.

Friday morning, Goss gathered with local leaders including Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, to officially announce the  $20 million dollar project to a small crowd.  

When it's completed, Marble Alley will contain 238 residential units, a 350 spot parking garage, and the first new swimming pool built in downtown in decades.

"There will be close to 300 people living downtown," Goss said.

County Commission granted Goss a $3,000,000 option on the land in 2009. He is working with TDK Construction out of Murfreesboro to develop the project; they do not plan to use public money to finance construction.

It's a move that will no doubt raise values of adjacent properties. Mayor Rogero said that also raises the bar for future building, "It's going to fit in great with the Old City and with downtown."

That's the idea behind Marble Alley.  In the early 20th century a different "Marble Alley" existed on the same site.  A map from 1903, provided to 10News by the Knox County Libraries, shows an actual alley cut from what's now Summit Hill Drive, south for several blocks.
"It was a strong pedestrian connector between Market Square and Gay Street, which is on the plateau of downtown, to the Old City," Goss explained.

He discovered that when he bought his office building.  It sits next to the last remaining section of the original landmark.

Knox County purchased the State Street land in the late 1990s.
"It was supposed to be a combination of jails and judge's chambers and courtrooms and things like that," said Mayor Burchett.

County Commission eventually, indefinitely tabled the project.  Knox County turned it into a paid parking lot when it was unable to unload the land. In 2012, finance records show the parking lot brought in almost $59,000 to the general fund.
Mayor Burchett said that's a drop in the bucket compared to what the new Marble Alley has the potential to generate for the city and the county.

"The value added with the folks that will be living there and spending their hard-earned dollars downtown will be significant," Burchett said.

Mayor Rogero sees Marble Alley as a key to urban growth, "Having this type of private sector development and investment, this amount of money and bring people downtown to live is going to have a lot of repercussions."   
Goss is banking on that by turning his dream into a reality for a city that has his heart.  He said the lofts will take up about two-thirds of the parking lot. Ideally, in the future, Goss wants to build retail spaces on the remaining parcels.

County officials said they will be in touch with people who park in the lot in a few months.  They plan to leave parking on the section of the block that won't be under residential construction.

Goss said he expects to break ground by early 2014, and construction will take about two years.


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