Knoxville, Tenn. – Plans are underway for Knoxville’s first urban, vertical retail complex, built over covered parking and featuring two major brands from the grocery and retail industries. This distinctive multi-story structure will revive the look and feel of a turn of the century factory, adapted for an urban shopping and dining experience for visitors.
Both Walmart and Publix have made commitments to be a part of this project planned for the former Fulton Bellows site, adjacent to the University of Tennessee. In addition to both Walmart and Publix, more than 40,000 square feet will be dedicated to smaller retailers and service providers.
The retail complex will fill a grocery and retail void in the downtown area, including providing grocery/supermarket services in a federally designated “food desert.” A food desert is considered a low-income census tract (LICT) where a substantial number of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.
“With the commitment from Publix, we will provide a grocery and supermarket service not currently available and one that is much needed in this area,” said Mike McGuffin, a partner with CHM, LLC. “Downtown residents, students on campus, residents from Alcoa Highway and other local neighborhoods, will all greatly benefit from the convenience University Commons will provide.”
The University Commons project will have an approximate economic impact of $226 million on the Knoxville community and create more than 1,700 jobs. “We’ll be able to provide job opportunities to low-income residents in this area, making it easier for them to get to and from work each day,” added McGuffin.
With the current property classified as a brownfield site, the development of University Commons will return a non-productive real estate asset to productive use, while anchoring several other major public and private development efforts in the area. “This project along with the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project will be great complements to each other,” said Jim Harrison, a partner with CHM, LLC. “Together, these projects will make this semi-suburban area that is often used as a pass-through into a safe and attractive urban district for the community.”
There are many hurdles involved in redeveloping this site, including securing the funding necessary to successfully complete the project. “Because the current site is a brownfield, we will acquire some substantial expenses required to properly clean up the site, along with construction costs necessary to build this unique, vertical complex,” said Harrison. “We will be seeking funding for the project through real estate and sales tax TIFs and through the New Markets Tax Credit Program.”
The project is being developed by CHM, LLC, a Knoxville-based development team. Members of the team include Budd Cullom, Jim Harrison and Mike McGuffin.