Owners ask: What will make “The Met” special?

The folks behind the Metropolitan Plaza development in downtown Knoxville are taking a unique approach in planning what amenities it should include. They are asking potential customers.

Earlier this week, the developers, Nick, Justin and Ryan Cazana of Commercial and Investment Properties, hosted a lunch at Club LeConte for the heads of some of Knoxville’s leading commercial real estate firms. After everyone had placed lunch orders, Nick got right to the point: “You all do a majority of the office leasing in town. What amenities should be in this office building?”

Metropolitan Plaza, or as Nick prefers to call it, “The Met,” is a $78 million mixed use development that will include a full-service hotel, an office building, residential condominiums, a parking garage and some retail space. It will be located in the block bounded by Church Avenue, Locust Street, Cumberland Avenue and Henley Street and will have a crosswalk running above Henley to the World’s Fair Park.

The meeting with the brokers is just one example of the developers reaching out to potential customers for information. Last month they sent 150 written surveys to downtown condo dwellers asking what amenities they would like to see in a new condominium development. Those results are still coming in.

Nick assured the brokers that their input would be confidential – he even asked them to write on slips of paper what each thought the lease rate should be – so I won’t go into too much detail about their specific suggestions. But it will come as no surprise that they unanimously told him the number one issue for companies looking at downtown office space is parking. Another theme: concern for the environment. One broker told him all the company’s clients are asking about “green” initiatives in any potential office space: things like chemical-free carpet and lights that are activated by motion detectors.

The Cazanas’ vision for “The Met” is that it will be the best place in Knoxville to have a home or office. It will have a full-service restaurant and bar and a common lobby for the hotel, office and condos that will generate lots of activity. It’s that activity that will differentiate it from the other class-A office space downtown. Most of the existing space, though very nice, features fairly static lobby areas with not much going on. “We want a lobby where people will want to gather,” Nick said. “That means activity.”

Nick said construction should start by this time next year, with the garage and office building opening in 18 to 22 months and the hotel six months after that.

If you have an opinion about any specific amenities The Met should include, contact the developers at [email protected]. Or post your comment here.

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10 Responses to Owners ask: What will make “The Met” special?

  1. Bob, on June 24th, 2009 at 12:51 pm said:

    I think green is important from an environmental aspect, but also from a cost-savings aspect. So many of the green initiatives save energy and also save money. Water savings go a long way and are probably more overlooked than electricity.

    Keeping the lobby active is a great idea. You’re right, most of the buildings downtown with “night businesses” don’t have as much residential. Others are residential with less night activity.

    A good mix of the two would be interesting and probably contribute to the other’s success.

    Designating areas for 24/7 free public parking would help with the parking perception.

    Looking forward to seeing other ideas here….

  2. Laura Bower, on June 24th, 2009 at 1:27 pm said:

    Parking is not an amenity, it’s a necessity — preferably in a well-lit covered garage with 24/7 security.

    A rooftop garden and clever, private green spaces for the condos would be cool. Could be a balcony or an atrium or a screened-in porch. The Nicholas, formerly the Mary Reed Apartments, on Kingston Pike has glassed theirs in, but the original digs had screened porches. I remember, because my grandmother lived there. Can’t wait to see “The Met”!

  3. Tyler, on June 24th, 2009 at 1:49 pm said:

    I definitely agree with the environmental impact. Knoxville is a Solar America City, after all…so I would like to see some investment into some newer approaches to passive energy savings as well as the addition of solar features like using Photovoltaic panels as shading devices. I heard of a place that rather than applying for LEED certification adapted a space to educate visitors as well as residents of the environmental impact and savings the building had on the area. The money saved as well provided for even more solar panels and wind turbines integrated within the architecture of the structure.

    I would love to see some retail space along the Henley Street Frontage as this area greatly needs some attention brought back to this thoroughfare. You do see people walk down Henley Street, but it’s merely a pass-by pedestrian zone because everyone has seemed to abandon any sort of street level presence on Henley.

    I’m excited to hear about an addition to Knoxville’s skyline and cannot wait to see some activity brought to this part of the city.

    I cannot wait to read more about what others think as well.

  4. Shaun Fulco, on June 24th, 2009 at 1:49 pm said:

    I’ll be in the market for a downtown condo within the next couple of years as I send my son off to college. The most important amenities for me will be security and adequate parking. Other amenities that I think would make The Met interesting would be a Spa, rooftop patio and/or pool, Concierge desk, grocery/convenience store, fitness center. I recently heard about a development in Orlando that will have a designated “pet walk” on the 12th floor. I thought that was a great idea. Allowing residents to walk their pets without leaving the building would be a great security feature for many after dark. The Met will already have a full restaurant and bar which would also be on my list. I love the idea of the common lobby. Can’t wait to see more as it develops!

  5. Art, on June 24th, 2009 at 3:45 pm said:

    I think it is essential from an urban design aspect that the project NOT turn a cold shoulder to Henley Street. As it exists now, Henley is quite the barrier between downtown and the convention center and World’s Fair Park. In fact, the project would benefit greatly in the long-term by being as open to Henley as it is to Locust, although in different ways. If further building is done around World’s Fair Park (library, museum, etc), some effort will have to be made by someone so that Henley does not act like a fence hemming in downtown. The Met could, and should, be a part of this effort to tie them together–and not just with another bridge.

    Remember, Henley Street is often the first thing visitors see of downtown Knoxville. That impression should be one of welcoming–not blank walls and non-entrances.

  6. Glo Marquis, on June 24th, 2009 at 5:23 pm said:

    A grocery store – one that has basics and some gourmet items? I think of Reed’s in the Sequoyah Village. It had fresh veggies, items for a quick dinner, and some special items.

  7. Sean, on June 24th, 2009 at 8:50 pm said:

    A project this vertical will impact Knoxville’s skyline. A tremendous opportunity if studied well.

  8. "The Met", on June 25th, 2009 at 8:19 am said:

    Thanks for taking the time to give us your input into “The Met.” This is just the first of several opportunities for the public to comment on the development and give us their ideas on the project. “The Met” will belong to Knoxville, it will be the first thing many people see when they enter downtown, so we will urge citizens to send us ideas throughout the development.

    Green initiatives, security and improving Henley Street are all high on our list of requirements for “The Met.”

    We will keep you updated on “The Met” and the timeline for construction. Thanks.

  9. Rusha Sams, on June 26th, 2009 at 11:39 am said:

    When The Holston was pre-selling, there was the idea of having a restaurant on the ground floor. Residents could rent it out for functions if their condo was too small. Any space like that to help residents entertain would be a boon to downtown, and, of course, folks could just use it as their downtown eatery on everyday nights.

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