(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series profiling Buzz Goss, another of the developers whose passion for downtown redevelopment has propelled Knoxville’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Well-known Knoxville developer Buzz Goss recalls a time when he first decided to live and work downtown that red lights could be considered optional on the weekend. That’s how little activity – retail or residential – existed when the bankers, attorneys and other business executives were not around.
Much has changed in the ensuring 22 years, thanks to a number of committed individuals including the Miami native and graduate of the University of Tennessee’s (UT) School of Architecture.
As a result of the redevelopment of so many old buildings, Knoxville’s downtown is now a vibrant area attracting people of all ages to the many restaurants, theaters, bars and other venues. These options are key factors in the rapid emergence of the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing a foundation to recruit and retain creatives, particularly the Millennials.
We first met the engaging, slightly irreverent and dry-witted Goss one Saturday night at Oliver Royale on Market Square. We started an informal conversation at the bar while I waited with my wife and another couple for a table for dinner. I did not know Goss, so I asked, “What do you do?” His response was simple: “As little as possible.”
That self-deprecating description is clearly far from the truth when one considers Goss’ proverbial body of work and the impact he has made on his adopted hometown.
“I’ve been involved in 100 plus renovations involving two million square feet of space,” he says. Most of that work has been in Knoxville, although he did renovate a building on Church Street between Third and Fourth Avenues in Nashville.
And, for a number of years, Goss was teamed with David Dewhirst, another well-down figure in the redevelopment of Knoxville’s downtown. He says credit for the downtown resurgence is shared by a number of people including Dewhirst, Leigh Burch, Jeffrey Nash, Tim Hill and Mike Hatcher.
Their projects are too numerous to list here, but some of their more notable ones include the JC Penney Building (Hatcher and Hill); Crown & Goose (Nash); White Lilly Flats, Daylight Building and The Standard (Dewhirst); and Sterchi Lofts (Burch).
Goss’ newest undertaking – Marble Alley Lofts – is the first time he has been involved in a project with all new construction.
“We are more than 80 percent leased which went faster than we thought it would,” Goss said proudly.
The availability of 248 new living units in downtown Knoxville was not an easy journey, but it reflects his vision, passion and determination.
The developer had always lived in South Florida where his parents “dabbled in real estate,” but Goss came to Knoxville in the mid-1980s to enroll at UT. While working to earn his architecture degree, he says he bought his first piece of property – an old house in North Knoxville that he renovated and rented bedrooms to other UT students.
Shortly after graduation, Goss purchased a building at the corner of State Street and Jackson Avenue that he renovated into condos.
“I was never intimidated in getting a mortgage,” he says of those early years. That attitude would serve him well as he started pursuing his vision for Marble Alley Lofts in 2006.
NEXT: Marble Alley took a number of years, but portends a brighter future for Knoxville developers.