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Reflecting on 2020

Even though 2020 brought hardship, there were many silver linings in Downtown Knoxville thanks to the supportive neighborhood, business owners creatively adapting to the new normal, and so many people supporting local. People like you, so thank you! Through canceled festivals and closing businesses, there were many bright spots to celebrate. Read on to see some of Downtown's 2020 highlights worth celebrating.


New Storefronts


From restaurants to retail, bars to yoga studios, a unique variety of businesses opened in 2020. Early in the year, Yoga 865 became the only yoga studio in the downtown district, giving residents and visitors a place for meditation and wellness. Shortly after, CJ Tacos started serving up their famous pan-fried tortilla tacos in Embassy Suites, and The Nail Room brought manis and pedis to Gay Street.  Yoga, Nails + Tacos! What a great start to the year.


Following the COVID-19 shutdown, Downtown reopened with new businesses on Market Square, including Nature’s Crossing Health & Beauty, bringing teas, tinctures, and holistic products (perfect timing), as well as Vow’d Weddings, providing brides with a new kind of wedding dress shopping experience.


A trip to the Old City brought us HenHoc Butcher co-owned by Jeffrey DeAlejandro of OliBea and Chef Jon Newman, serving fresh cut meats, market items, and homemade spreads and sandwiches. Right next door, Honeymouth opened a storefront selling their handmade leather goods. And across the street, Old City Sports Bar opened, boasting 18 TVs to watch every kind of sport. Let's not forget Able Trade, a shared studio space providing Knoxville's makers – both professionals and hobbyists – with more access to facilities, to tools, and to each other!


In the Fall, we welcomed two sweet bakeries: Ham‘n Goody’s brought their world-famous lemon cookies to Gay Street, while Wildflower Too started serving up macarons, soups, homemade breads, and tasty Keto options at the First Horizon Plaza. We also welcomed Knox Brew Hub, the epicenter of craft beer in Knoxville; Knox Box Karaoke, a place where everyone can sing (yes, even you!); Tall Man Toys & Comics, the Southeast's largest Funko Pop! distributor; and Knoxville Fine Violins, a storefront for custom-made and handcrafted bowed string instruments and rentals.


Towards the end of the year, KoPita Meat, neighbor to sister restaurant KoPita Vegan, brought more flavors of the Mediterranean to Gay Street. And, with new owners, we welcomed Myrtle’s Chicken + Beer back to Market Square! Five Thirty Lounge, a newly renovated indoor/outdoor rooftop bar opened on the top of Hyatt Place, offering craft cocktails and views for miles, while Ethan Long DDS and Marble City Dentistry & Facial Esthetics both started accepting new patients for the new year. To close out December, Knoxville-native Trevor Bayne opened Mahalo Coffee Roasters on Union Ave. Can't wait to try their iced coconut mocha!


There were three more businesses that expanded and relocated that we can't forget to mention! In February, OliBea moved right down the road to a larger location on Central Street, keeping the atmosphere just as bright and colorful, and food as fresh and tasty as before. Kaizen moved from their quaint, original home on Clinch Ave to a larger space on Central Street as well, serving up their famous buns, noodles and daily specials. Plus, a spacious patio, where you can physically-distance under twinkling lights. Lastly, Lillian Ruth Bride moved from Market Square to a spacious storefront on the corner of Summit and Central, so they could better serve their special brides. We love seeing Downtown businesses grow!


The central business district was busy. If we've missed something, please let us know!



Welcoming New Residents


We love new residents and we welcomed some of those in 2020 too. With more than 400 apartments and condos under construction within the central business district, the year saw the completion of three unique buildings.


The historical significance of the The Cal Johnson Building goes back to its namesake. Cal Johnson, born into slavery in 1844, became one of the most remarkable businessmen in Knoxville’s history. The 15,000-square-foot structure built in 1898, was transformed into loft apartments with ground-floor commercial space. Residents began moving into the State Street address in mid-summer.


City House, a new construction project unlike any other before in Downtown, also hit the market this year. Each of the private residences offers 3,000 square feet of living space, a rooftop deck and private 2-car garage. This stunning addition to the district, with rare urban amenities, is within a 5-minute walk of Market Square.


Another new construction project, The Overlook, provided lucky owners the ability to completely customize their space, plus private parking and balconies with city and river views. The project was 100% under contract before the finish of construction. Sold out!


Welcome to the neighborhood! #LiveDowntownKnox



Art, Murals & More


The pandemic kept us outside, and Downtown public art provided some bright spots during some dark days. Local artists added 10 new murals in Strong Alley, some funded through the Dogwood Arts’ Mural Program and others popping up in the night. The seasonal Downtown Knoxville mural on the south end of Strong Alley provided a striking photo op throughout the year, while murals were added in surprising spots at street level and rooftops. Plus our favorite Dolly mural had a makeover (we think Dolly would approve!).


As a part of the annually rotating, outdoor sculpture exhibition provided through the Dogwood Arts’ Sculpture Program, Krutch Park and Cradle of Country Music Park became home to 13 sculptures created by artists from across the nation. Our favorite? The big red heart installed in the center of our city! It's the perfect way to show how much we #LoveDowntownKnox.


And for the Holiday Season, with the support of the City of Knoxville and creativity of Dogwood Arts, the Downtown Knoxville Alliance was able to light up Market Square with the Peppermint Grove – adding some much needed sparkle to the end of the year.



Your Favorite Photos


Let's wrap up our look back on 2020 with our top photos from Instagram. So many amazing photographers capture the vibe of our downtown perfectly.




Thanks to all who made 2020 a little brighter. #LoveDowntownKnox!