Downtown’s magic lures us to a major life change

Alan and I have put our house where our mouth is!

Sign on entrance to Cherokee Lofts, our downtown home

Sign on entrance to Cherokee Lofts, our downtown home

On Monday we sold our home on Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills and became full-time residents of downtown Knoxville. This was the culmination of a process that included a number of serendipitous events along with a daily growing passion for the downtown lifestyle.

Here’s the deal.

Twelve years ago, we bought our “dream house” on Cherokee Boulevard from our good friends Ron and Wanda McMahan. We ADORED living there. The house — 3,900 square feet with only two bedrooms — was perfect for us. We don’t have children (just a cat) and we love to entertain. It was so much closer to our office downtown than was Farragut, where we lived before. We were in heaven for about 10 years.

All the while, downtown was starting its resurgence — and we were a part of it. Our office was on Gay Street and several of our clients through the ’90s were very involved in downtown renovation. We helped with fund-raising and publicity for the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre and we helped KUB and the city celebrate the renovation of the historic Miller’s Building. Another client, ImagePoint, moved from Powell to the Miller’s Building, and we helped “sell” the virtues of downtown to that company’s employees. And we were falling more and more in love with downtown ourselves.

Then, in pretty rapid succession, these unrelated events occurred:


  • We needed a new roof on the house and I had been wanting a new kitchen and bathrooms for several years. I was shopping at Kroger one day when I saw the book, “Change Your Home; Change Your Life,” by our Sequoyah Hills neighbor Moll Anderson. I bought it. Its main theme was, “What are you waiting for?” I asked myself that question and Alan and I decided it was time to take the plunge and remodel the house.
We worked hard on the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre project. That drew our attention to all the great things happening downtown.

We worked hard on the restoration of the Tennessee Theatre project. That drew our attention to all the great things happening downtown.

  • Several friends who had lived through big remodeling jobs warned us about how stressful it is to live in a house under construction. “If you don’t want to get a divorce, you’d better move out during the remodel,” several said. We certainly didn’t want to get a divorce, so we decided to purchase a tiny little condo (745 square feet) in Cherokee Lofts on Church Avenue downtown. The contractor said the job would take six months. Of course, it took substantially longer. But we LOVED living downtown. We walked everywhere — to work, to the movies, to restaurants and concerts. We saved a ton on gas.
  • When it was time to move back into the house, we were very pleased with the results. The kitchen was fantastic. It had a six-burner gas stove (when our kitchen used to be total electric) and, best of all, a warming drawer. It was a beautiful re-do throughout, actually, and we had all new furniture and window treatments. But there was just one downside: it wasn’t downtown.
  • Because we do so much entertaining, a lot of people saw the house. But one person in particular fell in love with it: our friend Jeff Lee, the general manager of WBIR-TV. “If you ever want to sell this house, call me first!” he said. We didn’t really take him seriously. But he kept saying it almost every time we saw him.
  • Sometimes over the next two years we’d kid around about taking Jeff’s statement to heart. But we liked the house and were happy there and we knew that it certainly wasn’t the right time in the real estate market to sell. But still, we’d spend nights downtown every chance we got. It was confusing figuring out what clothes to leave where and we always had to worry about where Rexie, our cat, was. She did not like going back and forth between the two residences. We knew a lot of people with two houses — like a beach house or a mountian house. But we started to feel kind of silly having two homes less than 10 miles apart!
A new-ish sign on an old building that has meant a lot to us

A new-ish sign on an old building that has meant a lot to us

  • Then two conversations happened that had a huge effect on me. I had lunch with CPA Renda Burkhart. She’s not my CPA, just a friendly acquaintance. Over lunch I mentioned the situation with the house and our love of downtown but how it was not a very good time to sell a house. “Cynthia, life is short,” she said seriously. “Don’t let a few dollars stand in the way of you living where you will be really happy. Real estate will take years to get back like it was before — if it ever does. If you and Alan are passionate about it, you need to do it. Don’t wait out the market.” I shared that with Alan and he agreed. But it just killed us that we had spent so much on the house and now were thinking of moving. You can never recover your investment in furniture and such.
  • The second conversation was with our new friend Robert Loest, who has since passed away. He was a nationally known financial adviser and fund manager and a downtown resident and enthusiast with whom we had Sunday brunch almost every week. He reacquainted us with the concept of “sunk costs” — which I had chosen to forget about since my economics courses in college!
For years we have sponsored the Knoxville Symphony's Masterworks series at the Tennessee.

We've always been downtown boosters. For years we have sponsored the Knoxville Symphony's Masterworks series at the Tennessee.

  • Alan and I talked and talked. We took the opportunity to purchase the condo next to our original condo and we hired a contractor to combine the two units. Then, in August, we saw Jeff Lee and his wife, Christie, at a party we had at Regas to thank people who had been on this blog the most. “When are you going to sell me that house?” Jeff joked, as had become his habit. “We are going to sell it to you now!” I said. Stunned, Jeff rushed off to find Christie. We closed on the sale this past Monday and, after all the signing, we toasted the deal at the title company’s conference room table with Veuve Clicquot, Christie’s favorite champagne.

Monday night, Alan and I celebrated by walking to one of our favorite downtown restaurants — Bistro at the Bijou — and then taking in a movie at Regal Riviera, downtown’s movie theater. Of course we ran into folks we knew — that’s what makes downtown more like a neighborhood than almost any other neighborhood in town. Tuesday we walked to work (we now also have offices in the historic Miller’s Building, ourselves). I walked to a morning meeting at the Emporium, to lunch at the Bistro, and took a client for drinks at Chesapeake’s. Later Alan walked to the City Council meeting and then we met some friends for dinner at Calhoun’s on the River. When we went to bed for the night, our cars had never left the garage.

The Regal Riviera is so convenient that it will help me achieve my annual New Year's resolution to see 30 films.

The Regal Riviera is so convenient that it will help me achieve my annual New Year's resolution to see 30 films.

And we can’t get these smiles off our faces.We know we have made the right decision for us and we can’t wait to celebrate the holidays in our new space.

So thanks to the Lees. We hope you are as happy as we were in that fabulous house. And thanks to everyone — Moll, Renda, Robert and our other downtown brunch buddies and friends — who knowingly or unknowingly nudged us in the right direction. Thanks to Gay and Bill Lyons, another couple with a similar story, who offered us valuable advice along the way. A special thanks to Jim Nichols and Judy Collins, two Realtor friends who helped us and the Lees with technical details as we closed on the deal. And to our friend Susan Brown who helped us with the move.

We look forward to sharing many good times with all of you in this magical place that is downtown Knoxville.

Cherokee Lofts

Cherokee Lofts

Bistro at the Bijou

Bistro at the Bijou

Our cat, Rexie, doing something she's not supposed to do -- sitting on Alan's bedside table.

Our cat, Rexie, doing something she's not supposed to do -- sitting on Alan's bedside table in the downtown condo.

Filed under: Downtown, Historic preservation, Knoxville, Media. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Downtown’s magic lures us to a major life change

  1. Diana Morgan, on November 18th, 2010 at 10:17 am said:

    Ah, but you didn’t mention the greatest advantage to the new home: Rexie can sit at a window, look out on the street, and entertain all passersby. She will be an even happier cat.

    Happy new home, Cyn and Alan.


  2. Gay Lyons, on November 18th, 2010 at 10:18 am said:

    Welcome to the hood!

  3. Bill Lyons, on November 18th, 2010 at 10:32 am said:

    Cynthia, this is a great story and Gay and I can relate to so much of it. Just being able to walk everywhere, including UT, is a giant plus. And the enhanced sense of neighborhood is something it is hard to put a value on. Of course we occasionally miss our great house in West Hills. But having so much less “stuff” and losing one’s reliance on a car to get anywhere is really liberating. Glad it worked out so well for you and Alan.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on November 18th, 2010 at 11:47 am said:

    Thanks, everyone. Diana: Rexie LOVES sitting on the windows! We see her sitting there gazing down as we come home. I’m afraid Alan is going to get run over one day because he stands in the middle of the street and waves at her!

    Gay and Bill Lyons’ cat, Caesar, likes their downtown condo, too, right guys?

  5. Rusha Sams, on November 18th, 2010 at 12:19 pm said:

    Congratulations on becoming downtowners all the way! We are envious! In fact, we’ve taken to renting occasionally from David Dewhirst just so we can walk to Pete’s for breakfast, the French Market for crepes, and wherever the mood strikes for dinner! The week I led the Ghosts and Ghouls tour for Blount Mansion was especially fun — I just walked “home” from a great evening of leading people through the historic sites of downtown Knox! So glad we’re a city that’s “turning”!

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on November 18th, 2010 at 12:25 pm said:

    That’s awesome, Rusha! I didn’t know you were leading those tours or I would have taken one! Hope you do it next year!

  7. Bill Lyons, on November 18th, 2010 at 12:40 pm said:

    “Gay and Bill Lyons’ cat, Caesar, likes their downtown condo, too, right guys?”

    Caesar is in cat heaven. He no longer has any longing for the outside where he once roamed out west. (The birds are still partying.) Of course we had fixed him so no little Caesars would be foisted upon the world so the transformation is not so drastic. He has definitely become an urban cat with few regrets.

  8. Carolyn neil, on November 18th, 2010 at 1:06 pm said:

    Great story. I know you will continue to love it there.

  9. Kathy Wood, on November 18th, 2010 at 1:45 pm said:

    Cynthia, I’m smiling reading your post. I love thinking about you and Alan living downtown… and working in the Millers Building too. Congratulations to both of you on this new chapter of your life!

  10. Bob, on November 18th, 2010 at 2:25 pm said:

    You and Alan are a real inspiration. Congratulations.

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on November 18th, 2010 at 2:42 pm said:

    Wow, thanks, everybody! We will have to have a big party as part of our master plan to convince everyone we like to move downtown!

  12. John Dominic Barbarino, on November 18th, 2010 at 4:36 pm said:

    True downtown story. The former Julie Auer invited me to join her at the Brew Pub in 1999. I defrosted my car parked up behind the Catholic church and drove to Bearden where I thought the “Brew Pub” was. A waitress recognizing me from a lunch just days before said, “I think the Brew Pub is downtown on Gay Street.” The “Brew Pub” was directly across the street from my Gay Street apartment! So, I return to my parking spot behind the church and am now 45 minutes late for meeting Ms. Auer. “You are not going to believe this,” I said. Perhaps, I was the only downtown resident that didn’t know where the place was. Downtown is no longer the downtown it was. That is OK. Because to have it “for the chosen few” was not and will never be cost effective. Though, we loved its specialness, that truly still remains! Viva downtown.

  13. Cynthia Moxley, on November 18th, 2010 at 4:40 pm said:

    Totally agree, John! That’s a funny story. Guess living downtown didn’t save you as much on gas then as it does now.

  14. Glo Marquis, on November 18th, 2010 at 5:34 pm said:

    Congratulations, Cynthia and Alan! I liked y’all being closer, but you will really enjoy your new home! I lived in Old Town Alexandria for years, and loved every bit of walking most everywhere I wanted to go! When Elaine moved back to Knoxville, she lived above Oodles for a while, and had a blast! I love reading about all that y’all do there! Also, I really want to go on the ghost tour next year!! I’m sure I will read about dates on The Blue Streak!

  15. Cynthia Moxley, on November 18th, 2010 at 10:49 pm said:

    Glo, we want you all to move downtown, too! You won’t believe how much fun it is! Can you get Bob to do it? Will try to keep you informed about fun stuff coming up.

  16. Annette Winston, on November 18th, 2010 at 10:52 pm said:

    I wish I could get Barry to move downtown! I know the commute to his East Nashville office (as Cynthia calls it) would be shorter from downtown than from our home in Sequoyah, just because it is so much easier to get to the interstate when you’re right next to it. I loved the visual I got of Alan standing in the middle of the street waving at Rexie. How precious is that?! We’ll miss you, Cynthia, but we are so glad you and Alan are happy downtown in Barry’s old building.

  17. Cynthia Moxley, on November 19th, 2010 at 9:17 am said:

    Thanks, Annette. It’s really neat to have been in this building to have my eyes examined when Barry’s office was here – and now to actually live here. Really experiencing the re-use first hand.

  18. Lynnda Tenpenny, on November 19th, 2010 at 11:33 am said:

    Congrats Cynthia & Alan ! This was a great story; I enjoyed reading about the process. Downtown is so awesome now. Hooray for Rexie having a permanent home and doing whatever-the-heck he wants to do !

  19. Gay Lyons, on November 19th, 2010 at 12:41 pm said:

    Thanks for including the photo of Rexie. She’s so pretty! Caesar loves the windows, too. It’s cat heaven. Our vertical 4 story place (with multiple staircases and numerous window sills sized perfectly for cat naps and scratch boxes & ) is like one giant kitty play pen. He is especially thrilled at not being stuffed into the “cat bag” for trips back & forth between downtown & West Hills, where, as Bill said, the birds are still celebrating Caesar’s departure.

  20. Cynthia Moxley, on November 19th, 2010 at 12:58 pm said:

    Gay: Rexie was traumatized for days after each trip back and forth. So, consequently, WE were traumatized. Much better having one permanent home, as you all know so well!

    Lynnda: We’ll be so much closer to all that great art you are putting out! Headed to the Art Market this afternoon, as a matter of fact!

    Kathy: You and Charley have been inspirational to us, as well. You took the big leap and did what you really wanted to do by starting your business taking people on fantastic trips to Europe. You go, girl!

  21. Jennie, on November 21st, 2010 at 9:13 am said:

    I’m jealous! My Alan won’t live downtown or I would have been there years ago. Enjoy your new place.

  22. Cynthia Moxley, on November 22nd, 2010 at 11:02 am said:

    Jennie: Wah? Why won’t Alan consider it? We’ll have to make that a New Year’s resolution for 2011: change his mind! Ha!

  23. Cathy Chesney, on November 22nd, 2010 at 12:55 pm said:

    It’s fun to see Rexie in the window on my walk back to work after lunch on Market Square. I always wonder what she’s thinking…”out to lunch again?” “you’ve been gone for almost 2 hours- does your boss know?” “you look so wet and cold out there – it’s warm and cozy in here!”
    Best wishes to you, Alan and Rexie!

  24. Cynthia Moxley, on November 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 pm said:

    Thanks, Cathy! It’s good to know she’s in the window after lunch. I just assumed she slept all day!

  25. The Modern Gal, on November 22nd, 2010 at 3:12 pm said:

    I love the story of y’all’s migration to downtown. You and Alan are great ambassadors for downtown Knoxville.

  26. Cynthia Moxley, on November 22nd, 2010 at 3:43 pm said:

    Thanks, MG: you are, too!

  27. Jennie Campbell, on November 22nd, 2010 at 4:55 pm said:

    Cynthia: He says he needs his outdoor space! I’ve tried to sell the idea of a rooftop garden or courtyard to him (which is what we have now) but we worry it would be too noisy for him. Yes, help me change his mind!!

  28. Cynthia Moxley, on November 22nd, 2010 at 4:58 pm said:

    That will be our special 2011 project, Jennie! Love a challenge!

  29. Virginia Babb, on December 3rd, 2010 at 5:54 pm said:

    Love reading your blog, makes me feel like I attend all the fun Knoxville happenings (when in reality with 3 kids I am usually sitting in a smelly gym somewhere in Knoxville watching a youth basketball game.) As a former realtor and just generally nosy, I always read the real estate transfers and had seen where the Lees had bought your house. How fun to read how the whole thing came about. My first date with my husband (18 years ago) was at Tomato Head, when it was literally the only place on Market Square to go at night. I love the transformation that Knoxville has undergone over the years. Unfortunately, I lived downtown in a Kristopher Kendrick loft when I moved here 18 years ago, before downtown was cool, hip and happening.

  30. Cynthia Moxley, on December 4th, 2010 at 9:11 am said:

    Virginia: Thanks for your comment! I remember those days when downtown was deserted and depressing. It’s really hard to believe how far we have come. I just hope the next mayor keeps downtown at the top of his or her priority list. You should think about coming back — downtown is zoned to Sequoyah School, which is great.

  31. Pingback:Blue Streak » Wily downtown dwellers use progressive dinner to recruit others to the downtown “cult”

Leave a Reply