Business boom

County, cities see commercial growth following Wal-Mart and beyond

Build a Wal-Mart, and they will come.

Looking west on U.S. 411 South, it is easy to see the booming commercial development along the corridor near the recently opened Maryville Wal-Mart. However, that is not the only area where development has earth movers and construction workers busy.

In upcoming months, two new hotels will be built in Alcoa, a new bakery will open in Maryville, the new Hamilton Crossing shopping center in Alcoa will expand its offerings and a new restaurant/jazz club will open downtown. The Maryville Wal-Mart will welcome neighbors that include a strip of restaurants, stores and banks.

And those are just the businesses that developers and corporate officers will confirm.

Maryville City manager Greg McClain said the financial lifeblood of any city is the commercial and industrial tax base. “Therefore that’s a focus on every city’s part to try to do things to invite and encourage commercial growth,” he said. “You’ve got to keep all (parts of the city) viable. How you do that is not easy.”

A lot of money has been invested in downtown infrastructure in the form of new concrete, a pedestrian bridge, street scaping and altered traffic patterns, McClain said. But not all the investment can be put in just one part of the city.

“We have to put all our efforts into the city as a whole,” he said. “What we live for is to have something like a Wal- Mart come in, because wherever Wal-Mart sets down, commercial business clamors. That’s what we’re dealing with on (U.S.) 411.”

McClain said the area is a growing commercial corridor. “If you drive out 411, almost beginning around Sandy Springs Road, there is either construction or lots for sale. Everybody sees that the potential out there is great right now. The city needs to take advantage of the private sector interest and try to help so we can develop in smart ways and not haphazardly by applying our design guidelines,” he said.

Wal-Mart neighbors

Mitch Taylor with Realty Investment Services is marketing property adjacent to Maryville Wal-Mart. Currently the property is being prepared for construction, and one building is already underway.

Taylor echoed McClain’s thoughts regarding development along U.S. 411 South.

“The traffic counts and activity out there has been a lot more than they ever imagined,” Taylor said. “Wal-Mart built this store to get pressure off the Alcoa store because business was so strong. It was so well located in that growing portion of West Maryville. It’s a wildly successful market point, and I don’t think anybody realized how quickly it would take off.”

Chip Slaggle with Certified Properties is developing the property. There are five parcels to the planned shopping center.

“We have sold two of the out-parcels. We sold one to TVA Credit Union and one to CBBC Bank,” he said. “The shop space that is going to be in the center of those out-parcels is about 28,000 square feet, and we’ve got probably 80 percent of that leased but the owner doesn’t want to say who that is. The tenants want to announce themselves.” Slaggle would confirm that the development is a mix of restaurants and shops.

Downtown developing

As city, state and federal funds have been poured into developing downtown, private enterprise has followed. Realtor/developer Dan Mizell has watched the development and sees it as essential to a viable downtown.

“As far as commercial development as we stand right now, there are two properties I own.” Mizell said. “One is at 100 North Court, and it appears to be ready to close this week with Allen Swank. He intends to put in a very upscale martini bar with light entertainment there. It will be a nice asset to downtown that will bring walking traffic downtown.”

Swank said Swanks at 100 Court should open in either January or February. He and his wife, Lorrie, and JoAnne and Charles Pask and Robert and Lisa Swank are all co-owners in the establishment they plan to close on this Friday, Oct. 19.

“One of the things we’re excited about is the possibility of Chris Hinderlight from Luce’s coming in as an executive chef,” said Swank “It’s going to be tapas (small plates), jazz and martinis.”

Allen Swank said the establishment is scheduled to be open at 4 p.m. seven days a week. The reason for delving into the new venture has as much to do with good food and atmosphere as it does good music, he said.

“We’re all family and definitely wanted to do something with our family,” he said. “Everyone in our family has played music at one point or another. Music is a family affair.”

Allen Swank said the establishment will have an adult atmosphere found at places like Sullivan’s or Aubrey’s restaurants. “An atmosphere that’s modern and upbeat but not overwhelming and definitely not uptight,” he said.

Mizell is marketing the other property, the former Meares law building across from Brackins’ Blues Club, as a retail/restaurant/entertainment venue. “I’ve got lots of interest, and I feel it’s just a matter of time before there’s a tenant,” he said.

Mizell also worked with Kyle and Raina Kant in purchasing the former state unemployment office across from the Blount County courthouse. The couple plan to open a boutique called Razberries.

Another specialty store is Dandy Lions on Church Street in the former Red Cross building. “What I’m starting to see with Dandy Lions in the old library building on Church Street, and Razberries coming in at the corner of Ellis Avenue, and Allen Swank coming in on North Court, we’re filling in vacancies around Broadway,” he said. “The key, in my opinion, for next year is the development of commercial space in front of the parking garage, whether by smaller retail shops or a large single tenant.”

A business that recently opened downtown is Toogies. The restaurant gets its name from co-owner Diane Fisher.

A tour of the establishment recently showed they had just about transformed the 3,800 square foot main floor of the building from its former state as the Gift Garden and Café to the bar/restaurant that carries the nickname Fisher had as a youngster. Fisher took possession of the building in January, and she and other investors have spent countless hours renovating the facility.

Fisher said when asked what type music they would showcase regularly; she didn’t want to be “pigeon-holed” into one genre because clientele may want different types of bands. “I want to be open to bring what everybody likes,” she said.

Washington spruced up

New retail development is also popping up along Washington Street on the edge of downtown where USA SuperPawn owner Jim Carter is opening a 16-store front shopping complex.

In 1998 Carter started buying property around him with the idea of opening up a shopping center around his building. His thoughts were that the buildings architecture would be reminiscent of an old downtown. Brick on each store front is different in color. “I liked the idea of an old downtown,” he said of the design.

In late September, Carter said he hoped to have the store fronts finished in the next 30 to 60 days. The first tenant, FireHouse Subs, a chain out of Florida, was the first tenant. “FireHouse Subs will be in by the end of October,” he said. “We have a day spa looking to do a first-class, high end day spa,” he said. “They’re looking to take 3,000 square feet.”

There is also a pet groomer looking to open. A high-end clothing boutique, a dance studio and a pizza place also have expressed interest in locating at the shopping center, Carter said.

“We’ve got 16 store fronts and seven of the 16 are spoken for, and, if we get the last couple signed up, that will leave us with five,” he said.

Still sweet at Kay’s

On the other side of town on West Broadway Avenue, Ken and Leyanne Harper are busy transforming the former Kay’s Ice Cream into a bakery and coffee shop named Sweet Celebrations. While the sign out front no longer reads “Kay’s Ice Cream” the familiar ice cream cone is back.

“The public demanded it,” Ken Harper said of the ice cream cone. “It’s been refurbished and painted a different color. That’s why we decided to expand it beyond a bakery and make it an ice cream shop/coffee shop.”

The store has about 2,100 square feet. About half of that will be kitchen, and the other half will be dining area, he said.

In the mornings, baker Dena Kyle will have breakfast items like cinnamon rolls. “That will be her signature item,” Leyanne Harper said.

Kyle also will make delicacies such as scones and muffins. “You can’t come get a biscuit, but you can get muffins and scones,” Leyanne said.

Leyanne Harper said currently there are no plans for serving lunch. In the afternoons, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream and gelato or Italian ice cream will be served. “She’ll spend her time in the afternoons doing specialty baking,” she said. “Cakes and wedding cakes are her specialty.”

Ken Harper said the restaurant will have WiFi wireless internet access.

“We want this to be a place people come to any time of day to enjoy a slow-paced kind of feel,” Leyanne Harper said.

They hope to open for business in November. “We hope to be open before the holidays,” Ken Harper said.

Looking for smart growth

Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said commercial growth along West Broadway Avenue and into the county on U.S. 411 South is coming and must be planned for accordingly.

“I think everybody predicts that commercially, the way we’re going to grow is U.S. 411 South,” he said. “We certainly want to protect U.S. 321 (East Lamar Alexander Parkway) as it goes into Walland and Townsend. That’s the gateway to the Smokies.

He says the county is planning the growth down the corridor. “You’ve got to make sure it’s done in as aesthetically and pleasing as possible. Planners are taking a look at upgrading the criteria on commercial growth with brick facades and stacked stone on (building) fronts, where it’s not so ugly to look at,” said Cunningham. “There are a lot of things being planned and looked at.”

The mayor said a community without growth dies. “Anybody with common sense will tell you that,” he said. “Any planner will tell you that. If we’re going to grow, we have to do it in a sensible manner and in a way that’s not one ugly aluminum building after another.”

Along Pellissippi

McClain said U.S. 411 South and the downtown areas aren’t the only places seeing growth. Pellissippi Parkway and its proposed extension to East Lamar Alexander Parkway will bring commercial development to both Maryville and Alcoa, he said.

“In the future we suspect, depending on what happens with Pellissippi Parkway as it spills into U.S. 321 towards the mountains, we’re going to have to look seriously at that corridor,” McClain said. “It could grow (commercially) if Pellissippi comes in. The projected intersection would be near Morningside Church and Bob’s Gas on East Lamar Alexander Parkway.”

Bill Hammon, assistant city manager with Alcoa city, echoed McClain’s thoughts regarding the parkway. The city already is planning on growth where Pellissippi Parkway intersects with Topside Road.

“We’ve already put utilities there,” said Hammon. “That’s what municipalities can do -- widen roads, put in light signals, water, sewer - that makes the land ready if we are able to have someone come in wanting a 15-acre site,” he said. “We can say, ‘I’ve got one right here.’ We don’t own any land on Topside Road, but people who do have land or have the potential to sell it - we match up a lot folks.”

Hammon said where Pellissippi Parkway currently terminates on Highway 33 or East Broadway Avenue is commercially zoned. “There is residential property Kevin Clayton owns and the R and D Park will have commercial property available,” Hammon said. “Probably a two-year window is a good planning window as well for that.”

Re-use for Alcoa

Hammon said another area that could be considered for commercial development is where industrial development once stood.

“Another place I hope we’re taking a more serious look at is where the old West (Alcoa Inc.) Plant was,” he said. “The aluminum company should make a decision this month on who the developer will be. Part of that will be commercial.”

Hammon said the location on Hall Road just across from the Springbrook Corporate Center has its challenges because of concrete on the 200-acre site. The state will be involved with remediation with anything that has to be remediated from an environmental perspective, he said.

“The aluminum company has been very deliberative in finding a developer who has experience to deal with environmental issues,” he said. “Within the next year planning window we could be developing the site.”

Places to stay

Two extended stay hotels also are planning on coming to Alcoa. Candlewood Hotel and Value Plus Extended Stay are planning construction in Alcoa in the next year.

Aaron Bruns, Candlewood manager of new hotel openings for Eastern United States and Canada, said franchisee Raj Tailor of Knoxville is looking to open the new hotel on Cusick Road in the fourth quarter of 2008.

“It’s going to be a prototype 83-room extended stay hotel,” Bruns said. “It’s limited extend stay. We’re designed for individuals who stay seven nights or longer. With full kitchens, it’s laid out for someone who’s going to be there for a while.”

Bruns said the company is 11 years old and has hotels in more than 40 states.

Hammon said both hotels have been approved through the planning commission but one hotel is further along than the other in getting their building plans approved.

Value Place is an extended-stay hotel planned for Singleton Station Road and Alcoa Highway. It will have 120 units, Hammon said.

“Both have been approved by the planning commission. Value Place has had building plans approved, and Candlewood is in the process of getting construction plans approved. Value Plus is probably a little ahead of them,” Hammon said.

Hamilton Crossing growth

Jay Dunlap of Knoxville is developing Hamilton Crossing at Louisville Road and U.S. 129 Bypass and hopes to increase the size of it. He is working with the county on a property swap for land adjacent to the development. In exchange for land where the Blount County Highway Department stands, he is proposing to build a new facility off Wright Road in Alcoa for the department, he said.

“Our goal is to expand Hamilton Crossing to include an additional 150,000 to 200,000 more square feet. To do this is going to take the cooperation of Blount County and City of Alcoa,” he said. “If all goes well, we should be able to complete the build-out within 18 to 24 months.”

Dunlap said development is not a certainty. “We’re subject to the risk of retail and finance market volatility,” he said.

The developer said Dicks Sporting Goods coming to the development is contingent on getting additional land. “I have Dicks prepared to commit to our site provided we can secure additional acreage from the county,” he said.

Dunlap said other businesses showing interest in Hamilton Crossing include home retail stores, a major department store and a couple of restaurants that would be new to the market. “I think Hamilton Crossing is really unique in that we’ve been able to attract a certain critical mass from junior anchor tenants and not a single gorilla tenant,” he said. “I think that means we have a much more stable and diverse base and, when complete, should generate in excess of $125 million in sales tax revenue to Blount County plus property taxes.”

Other businesses opening soon include:

CVS Pharmacy: Hammon said the location where Walker’s Supply stands is going to be a new CVS drug store.

Mountain National Bank: The new location opened in the Shops at Royal Oaks across from the Maryville Wal-Mart on West Broadway Avenue (U.S. 411 South) on Oct. 17.

First Tennessee Bank: A new location is nearing completion and should open soon in the Shops at Royal Oaks just off West Broadway Avenue across from the Maryville Wal-Mart.

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Comments » 1

mysterio writes:

"He intends to put in a very upscale martini bar with light entertainment there. It will be a nice asset to downtown that will bring walking traffic downtown.”

Yeah right. The only walking traffic in downtown is Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 5:00 pm when people go to work (mostly at Ruby Tuesday Corporate buildings). Any other time, especially the weekends, Maryville downtown is a ghost town. It's been that way for the last 30 years I've lived here and hasn't improved much since. I walk through downtown frequently (during work hours and non-work hours) and there is rarely anybody there.