Downtown Knoxville apartments MAC at Fifth would house entrepreneurs
- The MAC building on Fifth Avenue will be demolished for a unique apartment concept.
- MAC at Fifth would include units where entrepreneurs could live, work and sell their products on street level.
- Housing is needed throughout Knoxville, including the downtown area, which has a 99.59% occupancy rate.
- Amenities could include 50 parking spaces, a fitness center and a rooftop deck for residents.
The dated MAC building, marked by its iconic sign on the northern edge of downtown Knoxville, is set to be demolished. But more people will be able to enjoy the property through a development blurring the lines between residential and retail.
MAC at Fifth, a roughly $40 million development by Rhode Island-based Bluedog Capital Partners, will provide ground-level units where entrepreneurs can live, work and sell products.
The new build would be U-shaped and five stories tall, running the length of West Fifth Avenue between Williams and King streets. Bluedog, which Director of Acquisitions Sarah Harris recently expanded to her hometown of Knoxville, acquired the property for $2.1 million in May.
Demolition could begin early next year and developers hope to open MAC at Fifth in 2024.
The team is considering how the iconic sign could be incorporated in the design of the new building. No renderings have been publicly shared.
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Contributing to the downtown ‘boom’
Bluedog also has a satellite office in Florida and is the group behind Vital at Springbrook Farm, a 300-unit multifamily development expected to wrap up in January near McGhee Tyson Airport.
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But the MAC at Fifth project is a special one for Harris, whose grandfather cleaned the building as part of his business. Her father would tag along, too.
Harris experienced a learning curve returning in 2020 to Knoxville, which has seen tremendous growth in and around its core since she left in 2013.
This project is key as housing becomes harder to find and as downtown expands north, Harris said, pointing to the redevelopment of Emory Place as one example.
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“In seven years, just the boom that happened was amazing,” she said. “I said immediately, ‘I love this location.’ This is a fantastic location – love the building, love the sign. Everything about it just screamed, ‘This is an amazing opportunity.'”
Units for more than just entrepreneurs
If Harris had it her way, the building and its old-school office furniture could remain in some capacity. But the building at 200 W. Fifth Ave. was constructed in the 1950s and has too many structural challenges to accommodate a vastly different use – not to mention, asbestos.
Bluedog has not nailed down just how many live-work units the development could accommodate, though the total number of planned residential units is roughly 135.
“I think we’ll have to vet through everyone’s use to make sure it’s code compliant,” Harris said about the live-work units. “We really want to help Knoxville become more of a foot-traffic city, a bike-friendly city – not so reliant on vehicles for transportation.”
Harris said yoga instructors, visual artists, music teachers and bakers are examples of entrepreneurs that could fit in this unique community.
“You are going to have that street presence,” she said.
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Visualizing the development is difficult without renderings, but Harris said the design will match the “historic vibe” of the neighborhood.
The live-work units will include a retail component that faces the street. There also be more traditional studios to two-bedroom floor plans, with prices reflecting market rates.
“It is very needed,” Harris said. “It’s meeting that demand that Knoxville is seeing. You move here, you want to be able to find a place to live. You work downtown, you want to be connected to everything. This is a great opportunity.”
Knoxville’s rental market is hot. The average rent in May was up 24% from the same time last year across Knoxville. Downtown has an astounding occupancy rate of 99.59%, and its $1,429 average rent was the fourth-highest among all neighborhoods at that time.
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Minimal amenities, but parking a plus
Community amenities have not been finalized, but Bluedog is considering a small fitness center, shared work areas and a kitchen area.
A rooftop deck for residents is a possibility, and roughly 50 surface parking spaces are included in project plans. Parking would be included on the south side of the property within the U-shaped development.
Harris said the property already is zoned for this type of development.
“Knoxville is seeing a huge growth,” she said. “You’ve got all this new, fresh people moving to the area.”
“Tennessee is a fantastic state. Knoxville is a great city. So, I’m excited to help be part of that growth.”