Downtown Housing Boom

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Tuesday's pre-construction auction underscores the recent demand for upscale downtown housing in Knoxville.

Any participant or spectator at Tuesday's Candy Factory Condos Auction may think the demand now is much greater than the supply of downtown housing. Our research shows there are few condos left unsold on the market here. Developers are finding a growing market of folks who now want to move downtown.

Condo construction is helping revitalize downtown Knoxville. Many of these older buildings, some with historic designations, are now finding new life after years of sitting empty.

"It's coming more into its own, and there just seems to be a tremendous demand for it downtown," realtor Sharon Bailey said.

That demand led candy factory condo developers to hold what is believed to be the first-ever predevelopment residential property auction in Knoxville.

"Downtowns have been the heartbeat of our communities for ever, and we kind of forgot that," developer Jon Kinsey said.

Now, among this group of bidders are new downtown condo owners.

"The same thing in real estate, location, i mean it's all about location," Bailey said.

Just within the central business district, condos include nearly 20 at the Burwell Building, four-dozen at the Candy Factory, 14 at the Crown Court Condos, twice that number at the Fire Street Lofts, more than a dozen at the gallery lofts on Gay Street above the Mast General Store, 40 at the Holston, 8 at the Jackson Atelier Lofts, and more than 30 undeveloped units at the Penney's Building. These 200 condos don't take into account the dozens planned for Knoxville's South Waterfront, but how much does it cost, and who can afford it?

"in one respect, seem like this is higher than you'd expect," developer Wayne Blasius said.

The gallery lofts developer says prices outside our region are
Substantially higher.

"Our prices here are anywhere from about $40 to over $100 per square foot cheaper than our regional competitors," Blasius said.

That lower pricing may continue driving the housing demand in downtown Knoxville.

"It's on a roll, and it's snowballing, and it's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger," Kinsey said.

Developers say in addition to living so close to restaurants, entertainment and cultural outlets, downtown condo owners who also work here can cut fuel costs. They don't have to drive as often. Another drawing card seems to be the uniqueness downtown living offers, as opposed to living in another look-alike subdivision.