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Old City Coffeehouse Co-owner Sees Possibilities - and Challenges 
No. 2 in a City Blog series: What do owners of small businesses think of the new multi-use stadium that's under construction nearby?

Downtowns across the nation, and especially their historic districts, are experiencing a wave of revitalization.

Knoxville's Old City has been no stranger to this wave. Before private redevelopers started buying old buildings and revitalizing them in the 1980s and '90s, older Knoxvillians can remember the long decades before then, when the Old City had languished and sat largely vacant - the bygone remnants of an era when railroad commerce defined Knoxville.

Now, the Old City is a tight-knit community, flourishing with small local businesses and new investment. The new City- and County-owned multi-use stadium - set to open in spring 2025 - will no doubt change the landscape, culturally and physically, of the neighboring Old City.

But this should come as no shock to residents and businesses, says Shaun Parrish, co-owner of Old City Java, 109 S. Central St.

Parrish has been a patron of Old City Java since 1991, and in 2007, he and his wife, Meg, purchased the coffeehouse. They then opened up a second store, Wild Love Bakehouse.

"We love our neighborhood," Parrish said. "When we opened up Wild Love Bakehouse, we knew that we wanted to stay in this part of town."

Exterior of Old City Java

The Old City has felt the surge of new investments and, in particular, new condos and apartments.

"With its centralized location, Old City Java has definitely benefitted from the increase of foot traffic in the neighborhood," Parrish said.

Asked about his marketing strategies, Parrish said that Old City Java didn’t really need one, as they’ve always sought to serve local customers and relied on a loyal local customer base to keep going.

“I’m excited about the possibilities and apprehensive about the challenges,” he said about the stadium and its potential impact on the Old City business.

The new stadium is just a 2-minute walk from Old City Java, so the increase in foot traffic would certainly increase visibility and contribute to a flow of new customers, Parrish says.

Also, the prospect of the multi-use stadium being used for a variety of events could help with the establishment of community-based traditions, like annual festivals and local celebrations. Old City Java has appeared at many a market and festival, and Parrish says the business would participate in things like this in the future.

Old City Java has been serving its loyal clientele for decades.

Like other neighborhood merchants, Parrish was wary about parking and traffic flow.

With up to 15,000 people attending a concert or show, accommodations will have to be set up in order for people to arrive in a safe and timely manner, he says.

Our culture includes use of a personal vehicle and the expectation of finding a parking spot close to the person's destination, Parrish says. But that's never been the norm in downtown and the Old City. People are accustomed to parking in garages and lots, or searching for nearby on-street parking, he says.

And even though stadium planners have counted 7,700 public parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the stadium, Parrish is concerned that a big baseball game or soccer match, or an even larger concert, would generate enough motorists looking for places to park that the existing on-street parking would be completely taken by event attendees. Parrish suggested shuttle buses on game days. 

The concern is understood, City and stadium planners say.

City officials will be looking at ways to incorporate shuttling, ride share and transit options when the stadium opens in 2025.

In addition, a strategic downtown parking plan is being developed; take the survey at www.KnoxvilleTN.gov/ParkingStudy. The study will recommend a parking management approach based on both current and projected future demand.

Also, community input was gathered at a Nov. 16 public hearing on the redevelopment of the McClung Warehouse sites, just a few blocks to the west of the stadium; that redevelopment mix is expected to increase public parking capacity in a few years.

All in all, Parrish says he is “looking forward to the stadium opening, personally.”

The stadium and the events it will host demonstrate that the Old City is growing and that new amenities are coming to the neighborhood, Parrish says. Old City Java will continue to be a neighborhood anchor and champion.

- Reported by Sophia Milen, a University of Tennessee Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs Fellow, who is interning this semester with the City’s Communications Department

Posted by evreeland On 28 November, 2023 at 2:30 PM