Looking Back on 2021


Indya Kincannon
[email protected]
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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In looking back at the City's accomplishments in 2021, what better to celebrate than the hard work of the City employees who provide unique services to the residents and businesses of Knoxville?

"As Mayor, I’m thankful for the nearly 1,500 conscientious and dedicated people who work alongside me and who keep making Knoxville better," she says. "I see their professionalism and their helpfulness every day. I'm proud to recognize and praise their ownership in delivering high-quality, dependable and efficient services."

Our city thrives when our people thrive.  


Private Investment Up by $63 M in Knoxville: Economic Development in 2021 Ends on Robust High Note

In calendar year 2020, building permits in the City were way up. Despite the pandemic, projects valued at $697 million were issued City permits last year.

In 2021, private investment in Knoxville crescendoed to an even higher level - and the last six months of 2021 were more robust than the first six.

"This is Knoxville's time," Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said. "We're a city on the move. We're growing, we're strengthening our neighborhoods, and we're creating jobs. The City's future is virtually unlimited, and the numbers clearly show that our residents are confident in the course we're charting together."

From January to June 2021, building permits were issued in the City for projects valued at $271.6 million.

But then, from July 1 through Dec. 28, the value of projects issued permits accelerated to $488.7 million.

The combined value of the private investment as measured by building permits in 2021 totaled $760.3 million - or more than $63 million above the mark set in 2020.

There were many economic-development successes in 2021, but let's look back at three in particular:

Play ball!

Following Mayor Kincannon's strong urging, City Council last month approved the partnership agreement necessary to proceed with construction of an $80.1 million publicly-owned multi-use stadium on property just east of the Old City.

The stadium will host professional baseball games, concerts, festivals and other public events. It is designed to host other sporting events, including soccer.

Renderings showing some of the various uses for the stadium

If construction gets underway in early 2022, then the stadium could open by late 2023, with professional baseball being played in Knoxville in spring 2024.

The potential public benefits are vast: An independent analysis calculated the total economic impact of the stadium and surrounding private development to be nearly $480 million over 30 years. More than 400 full-time jobs are expected to be created.

As part of a larger redevelopment effort around the stadium, GEM Development Group, the private development partner to Boyd Sports, is committed to investing more than $100 million to build apartments, condos, restaurants, retail stores, offices and space for a grocery store.

The site plan envisions street retail along Jackson Avenue, which will encourage further redevelopment extending eastward on Jackson and other streets past the stadium.

The publicly funded cost of the proposed stadium is $74.3 million, to be split evenly between the City of Knoxville and Knox County, with the developer Randy Boyd funding approximately $5.8 million in additional investment.

How will the stadium be paid for? The state of Tennessee has provided a $13.5 million economic development grant toward construction costs. Sales taxes collected from concessions and merchandise sold inside the stadium and private development at the site would produce enough new revenue to cover around 60 to 70 percent of the stadium debt service. The Tennessee Smokies will pay roughly $1 million a year in lease payments.

The bottom line? The estimated cost to the City and County would be $240,000 for each government annually for the first 10 years; at that point, the project could potentially be paying for itself, with no shortfall at all to be funded by local government. 

A big crowd turned out for a July 2021 block party and information-sharing event at the stadium site.
A big crowd turned out for a July 2021 block party and information-sharing event at the stadium site.

New jobs

More that 1,500 jobs were created inside the city limits of Knoxville in 2021, according to the Knoxville Chamber.

Economic development jobs announced by the Chamber this year included new companies Amazon (730 jobs), CGI Inc. (300), Lending Solutions Inc. (265) and IGT Technologies (202), plus an expansion by Tranzonic Companies (20). 

"New jobs are being created in Knoxville, with even more expected in 2022 and beyond," said Deputy to the Mayor Stephanie Welch, the City's Chief Economic and Community Development Officer. "Fifteen hundred new jobs may not sound like a lot at first glance, but compare our experience with that of many other communities that have lost jobs and earnings.

"Knoxville's diversified economy and our welcoming of start-ups and bold new business models has served us well in coming out of a global pandemic. We look forward to more job-creation growth and exciting new economic opportunities coming up in the near future - such as the multi-use stadium and Amazon opening."

Welch praised the Chamber and its Path to Prosperity strategic vision as a key driver of the City's and the region's economic success. The Chamber's Path to Prosperity plan prioritizes economic growth, focusing on solutions for employer challenges (such as building a pipeline for qualified talent), and accessing resources to support operation or expansion.

Downtown's biggest redevelopment project

What's believed to be the largest private construction project in downtown Knoxville's history is nearing completion.

Dover Signature Properties and Bristol Development are partners in reviving the state Supreme Court site, a long-vacant city block bounded by Henley Street, Cumberland Avenue, Locust Street and Church Avenue. Their total investment is more than $76 million.

Former state Supreme Court site, December 2021
Former state Supreme Court site, December 2021

The 66-year-old Supreme Court Building, with its iconic East Tennessee marble and mid-century modern style points, is being preserved and renamed The Tribute. It will open in May 2022 and will feature 63 serviced apartments for flexible term stays. 

The taller next-door new apartment building, named Church & Henley, will include 237 units. Some units will be available in late spring or early summer 2022, with the community completely done by next fall. Church & Henley will feature seven pieces of public-facing art as well as art in common areas and amenity areas inside.

“We are excited to be bringing the old Tennessee Supreme Court site back to life in a new way as The Tribute,” said developer Rick Dover, who previously saved other iconic but neglected historic buildings in Knoxville - the Farragut Hotel, Historic Knoxville High, Oakwood School and South High. 

“The new Church & Henley apartments, along with The Tribute, will energize a long dormant block of our downtown,” Dover said. 

To make the project financially viable, the City negotiated a 25-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement.

Taxes will be frozen at a property valuation of $2.6 million, roughly the amount that Dover/Bristol paid the City for the property. But the site - completely vacant for more than 15 years and government-owned for decades - had been generating zero tax revenues. That all changes dramatically when the PILOT expires, and the property will generate about $1 million a year in new taxes.