500 Block of Gay Street

At the time of review by the City of Knoxville and Regal Entertainment, the initial proposed design for a new downtown Knoxville movie theater called for the total demolition of all historic structures on the 500 Block of Gay Street except for two corner mid-rise buildings.

Seeking an alternative solution, Knox Heritage asked Design Innovation Architects (DIA) for a rendering of a theater behind the historic buildings of the block . Shortly afterwards, DIA joined a task force to review alternatives, and helped develop a plan that met Regal’s goals (a Gay Street presence and a a logical connection point to the State Street Garage behind the theater) while preserving the majority of the historic structures of the S&W Cafeteria, the Athletic House, and the WROL buildings.

Another winner in this solution was the City of Knoxville, which realized additional funds from Historic Tax Credits, the sale of the remaining structures, and long-term gains in the form of additional sales and property taxes.

After the solution was agreed upon by all, the City invited developers to submit proposals for the purchase and development of the remaining historic structures, and DIA, teamed up with a local development group, was awarded the project.

The Gay Street facade was renovated to its original historic design, as was the interior of the S&W building. A space at the rear of WROL was converted to a public courtyard, accessible to the occupants and guests of the buildings. All the facilities and utilities were upgraded structurally and brought up to code, including their accessibility and egress.

Knoxville, TN
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