New life for ‘pink building’

New owners say The Shoppes on Elliott Alley to bring more retail

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Photo with no caption

New life will soon be coming to the former law office known simply as “The Pink Building.” Its new identity will be The Shoppes on Elliott Alley.

A Florida contractor recently purchased the former Meares-Morton law building that stretches from East Broadway Avenue to East Harper Avenue. Randy Elliott, owner of Elliott’s Design and Interiors of Naples, bought the structure with plans to build a second building next to it and create an alley of boutique retail businesses.

While plans call for 10 to 12 retail spaces ranging between 800 to 1,000 square feet, units could be combined if leased in the early stages to acquire more square footage per unit, Mickey Dickson, interior designer with Elliott Design and Interiors said.

Dickson said Elliott has had a second home in Friendsville for five years now. “We were downtown (in August) having lunch with John Haney and Randy said he might be interested in doing something commercial. We were walking downtown and there it was. He told John to call on it right away and within a few days, he had the deal started,” she said.

Dickson said Elliott wants retail shops but wants to keep the appearance quaint. “The courtyard will stay in the front where it is now in some fashion, and there will be a small courtyard on Harper,” she said. “Bridged walkways will adjoin the second floors of each building with additional elevator access.”

There will be access from both East Harper and East Broadway avenues. “We hope to get the front space on Broadway as a finished space to give people the vision of what it’s going to be before we add the second building and to use it as a leasing office and to give inspiration to what we see it being,” she said. “We’ve worked with an architect Jon Titus AIA in Naples and told him the basic thought of what was envisioned for the site, and he came up with the concept Randy liked the best.”

Dickson said businesses such as a restaurants, a café, bakery, bookstores or florists shops are some of the businesses they expect to open in the buildings. “We also plan to expand our Naples business - Elliott Design and Interiors -- into the existing East Broadway space as a beginning,” she said.

In Elliott’s current vision, the pink stucco will be replaced with brick facades. Dickson said Elliott’s vision is definitely a quaint, old downtown building that is updated in keeping with the history of the building. “The idea is to bring the face of the building on both Broadway and Harper sides. They will both be brick facades on the existing building and the one we will build,” she said.

Dickson estimated it will take about 18 months to do the entire project after a substantial amount of spaces have been leased. They are hoping to have the leasing office open on East Broadway over the next three or four months. “That depends on the economy and working thing out, on bringing that one space back to peak the interest of local people to draw other retailers wanting to lease a space,” she said. “We are definitely very excited about becoming a part of revitalizing the downtown of Maryville.”

Maryville City manager Greg McClain shared the enthusiasm for the project. “I’m very excited, not only that somebody is going to be there, but I really like the concept of open alley ways between an existing building and a new building built right next to it,” he said. “I like that idea of having a connection to Harper Avenue, and the retail space we’ve been shown.”

McClain said every new business venture is important to the city. In the past few years new businesses have opened downtown and residential growth has followed. “One of big components missing has been retail,” he said. “We’re excited to see that broaden with this new business venture.”

Developer Dan Mizell sold the building to Elliott. Trotter & Co. broker John Haney of Knoxville represented the buyer.

Mizell said the building sat for a couple years under his ownership. “I’ve always envisioned we needed retail space in downtown Maryville and, lo and behold at just the right time for downtown revitalization, along came Randy Elliott who has worked with revitalization in historic buildings before. He has property in Blount County and loves Blount County.”

Mizell said the new retail project is going to bring the downtown to a new level. “It’s going to allow 10, 12 or 13 independent businesses a place to come into our great inner city,” he said.

The Shoppes at Elliott Alley also will create a natural corridor or breezeway between East Broadway and East Harper avenues and give a natural flow-through from the library and any business on Harper through the courtyard Elliott plans to build.

“I personally am thrilled to death that something I hoped for is going to become a reality and what it’s going to do for everybody downtown and what it’s going to do for small businessman who can’t come down and buy a building,” he said. “You’ve got lot of arts people who need small spaces. It just opens it up to a large number of people who would not otherwise have a chance to locate in inner city.”

Haney praised Elliott and Dickson and the plans they have for the former Meares and Morton law building.

“I think it’s going to be the best thing down there. Mickey and Randy are so down to earth but very in touch with beautiful design and the right way to do things,” Haney said. “Randy has been in the building and construction business 30 years and has done terrific projects in Florida. He fell in love with East Tennessee and moved here part-time to Friendsville and is looking to become involved with East Tennessee and Maryville, Knoxville and Lenoir City.”

Haney said the plans Elliott and Dickson have to create a retail boutique area fit right in with the downtown revitalization concept. “They are taking this dilapidated, run-down, vacant building and turning it into a vibrant center where people can shop and there may be other opportunities involved. I just think it’s a really neat project. It will feel like something you would see in an artsy-trendy area other cities try to incorporate.”

Haney said it could be an area that attracts people to come to downtown. “It goes in with what you see throughout America - the rebirth of downtowns where we’ve all gotten tired of suburbia and shopping malls and are returning to when things felt more like a real town, where you could get out and walk and get fresh air.”

Haney said this could project could be a catalyst for other projects downtown. “To me, it’s the perfect sized downtown for a place like this. The parking is there, and it’s a nice treat with so much potential,” he said.

Haney said what he finds interesting is listening to people a generation older than he is who have memories of what downtown used to be.

“The 1970s was death knell for downtowns. Now you’re seeing people want to get back to what used to be. It’s pretty exciting,” he said.

Erin Hall, the 2008 chair of the Downtown Association, said any new development that can get started in the area can only build interest and create more excitement for the growth and vision everyone has for downtown. “I’m excited about having new business owners and clients moving to the area. I think it’s going to be a great benefit for people already in the area, and it will create new interest,” she said.

Hall praised Mizell for helping spur interest in renovating downtown structures. “Dan Mizell has been helpful in getting people involved at looking at real estate. Lots of realtors have been helpful in helping developers and other interested parties find properties that will be a good fit for them and what they need for their developments,” she said.

Hall said it is going to be so exciting to see what happens with that space. “I think lots of people in community will have an awareness of the plans that we have for downtown as new properties are completed,” she said.

Hall said downtown Maryville proponents also are talking to Knox Heritage about their Nine Counties Preservation Alliance. “We are going to try to get a portion of the downtown area marked as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places,” she said. “I think everybody is on the same page and excited about making positive changes, and we’re going to move forward from here.”

Terry Gillingham, the 2009 Downtown Association chair, said small businesses could take advantage of the new opportunities created by The Shoppes at Elliott Alley.

“We’re certainly excited to have the prospect of new development downtown. I think there’s an opportunity there for small businesses to exploit what’s going on downtown in terms of art and history,” he said. “We’re excited to see anyone come in and invest in what we think is a wonderful opportunity.”

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