Commercial art gallery

Emory Place ready for new creative ventures near downtown Knoxville

It’s hard to notice from the outside, but several buildings on the north side of Emory Place are connected by a large basement and a new owner.

The Orel Brodt family, who have been investing in real estate in Knoxville for 30 years, purchased the underutilized property north of downtown with the vision of creating a symbiotic community centered on art and creative businesses in six buildings.

The family’s total investment of approximately $ 3 million represents another expansion of the downtown’s cultural footprint, following the approval of a multi-purpose baseball stadium in the Old Town and the opening of the Marble City Market in the Regas Square building.

STADIUM:City Council approves, Tennessee Smokies return to Knoxville

OLD NORD KNOX:Yee-Haw Brewing Now Calls Knoxville Home, Will Open Tasting Room

“You would think it would be more developed,” Brodt said of Emory Place. “We love that it looks like this kind of quaint European street, which has the opportunity to be something experimental and social and not just empty and dead.”

The buildings are located on a plot between North Gay Street and North Central Street, and five of the buildings share a basement. Property records show the family purchased the plot for $ 2.2 million in October 2020 under Break Emory LLC.

Brodt said she plans to turn one of the spaces into a restaurant with outdoor seating in a garden courtyard, which the family is building between two of the buildings. A cafe would be nice, she says, but the family is open to other options, as long as the tenant has a creative vision.

Gallery spaces are planned for two buildings, and apartments are planned for two others. Brodt has estimated that they will spend $ 1 million to develop the property.

“A million cool things” for the basement

Emory Place was home to the Central Market in the 1880s, allowing farmers to sell items at 33 stalls without having to move downtown, according to a book on Market Square by local historian Jack Neely.

Five buildings at Emory Place just beyond downtown Knoxville share a large basement, which could attract an entertainment business to the area between North Central Street and North Gay Street.  Orel Brodt and his family are also looking for tenants to occupy the street-level spaces, including a restaurant that could use the green space they are building between two buildings.

The Walla Walla Gum Manufacturing Company, a post office and a fire station were also located on the property, according to the Knoxville History Project.

Today the property has room for other businesses at street level in addition to a restaurant. But Brodt said his family probably wouldn’t consider a beer-focused brewery or bar with Crafty Bastard Brewery just across the street.

In June, the family bought the TVA Credit Union building on the corner of Gay Street and Wall Avenue for $ 5.5 million, which they rented to HD Patel for a hotel.

Also this year, they sold the Hope Brothers building to Patel for a separate hotel, with a new food and beverage concept planned at street level.

The scruffy stuff:What could be done to beautify downtown Knoxville?

“Food is love”: plans for the garden

Brodt hopes that about 12,000 square feet of rental basement with street-level access could attract a concert hall, movie theater, or other type of entertainment business.

“A million cool things could be there,” she said.

While the family is open to any ideas from potential tenants, the building closest to the planned green space makes the most sense for a restaurant with a terrace.

A green space will be built in this open space as part of Orel Brodt's family vision to bring creative businesses to Emory Place between North Gay Street and North Central Street.  The opportunities are endless for the area adjacent to the downtown area, Brodt said, and the family is building each space like a shell so future tenants can build their dream businesses.

“I think (the green space) really brings a positive energy into a development like this,” she said. “The center of every place always needs food. Food is love.”

The restaurant could occupy one or more of the connected buildings, with each street-level commercial space totaling approximately 2,000 square feet.

Brodt said the garden will have a gate with trees at the back. A restaurateur could even grow his ingredients in the garden.

“Everyone now wants to sit outside,” she said. “Imagine you still have a hundred places to sit people outside.”

Brodt’s stepfather operates KoPita on Gay Street, but the family has no plans to open their own restaurant concept in Emory Place.

Ilana puts artists “under her wing”

Ahead of the opening of a restaurant and other businesses at Emory Place, people should be able to visit a new art gallery in the springtime showcasing the work of Brodt’s mother, who works under the name Ilana Lilienthal.

Orel Brodt poses for a portrait inside what could be a restaurant space just beyond downtown Knoxville at Emory Place.  Brodt's family bought a plot with several buildings for $ 2.2 million in October 2020 and plan to invite creative businesses to relocate to the now underutilized area.

His work has been exhibited around the world and the space would be called the Lilienthal Gallery. International artists will have the opportunity to showcase their work in the gallery, according to its website, with a dedicated basement section as workspace and classroom space for artist mentoring.

“My mom’s story is being an art history teacher, social worker, art teacher all her life,” Brodt said. “So it would be very amazing to work with such talent that Knoxville has and put them under your wing.”

A separate gallery would be located in the building next door and the top floor would be dedicated to artist residences, allowing artists to work upstairs and showcase their work at street level.

Brodt predicts that construction will take up to a year for buildings other than the gallery. Nashville Office Interiors will continue to occupy the most easterly building on the property.