What was announced last fall is now official: Regal Entertainment Group will be moving its corporate headquarters and at least 345 employees to an anchor location on the South Waterfront, on the former Baptist Hospital site next to the Gay Street Bridge.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero on Thursday, July 21, huddled around a conference room table with Regal executives, City leaders, redevelopers, representatives of two other government entities and their respective attorneys. Inch-thick documents were signed, and keys to the nine-story, 178,000-square-foot building at Gay Street and Blount Avenue were ceremoniously handed to Regal CEO Amy Miles.
In the next year, the building – vacant since 2008 – will undergo an approximate $12 million transformation into a world-class corporate headquarters for the nation’s largest theater circuit.
“It’s exciting that Regal soon will begin its renovations and that, by the end of 2017, we’ll be welcoming a major employer to our downtown,” said Christi Branscom, Deputy to the Mayor and the City’s Chief Operating Officer. “This is a milestone for redevelopment of the South Waterfront as well as for Regal.”
The City of Knoxville’s Industrial Development Board purchased the office building from Southeastern Development Associates (SEDA) for $6 million. On behalf of the City, the Industrial Development Board will lease the building to Regal Entertainment Group for its corporate headquarters. Also present at Thursday’s signing were representatives of Knoxville’s Community Development Corp. (KCDC), which serves as the City’s redevelopment agency.
Regal will be responsible for paying all taxes, insurance, maintenance costs and utility expenses for the building. Regal will pay more than half the renovation costs for the building it will be leasing, with the option to purchase it. (The City is investing an additional $3 million in renovations and improvements to the building; Knox County and the State of Tennessee will be contributing $1.5 million each. SEDA will fund $500,000 for exterior improvements, and the Tennessee Valley Authority will provide a utility asset improvement grant.)
The IDB on behalf of the City also owns the Blount Avenue parking garage, surface parking areas and the enclosed pedestrian bridge connecting the garage with the Regal headquarters and the Riverwalk at the Bridges apartment homes – all included in the original $6 million purchase price.
“We believe owning the garage is a good investment,” Branscom told City Council earlier in the week.
Both Regal and Riverwalk at the Bridges residents will be parking in the garage, but there will be public parking spaces available to provide access to the public riverwalk and to restaurants and retailers planned to open along Blount Avenue. More parking will be available on nights, weekends and holidays.
While the City will own the garage, the costs of operating and maintaining the structure will be split by the City, SEDA and Regal.
Branscom said there’s increasing momentum in redeveloping the South Waterfront, with Regal relocating into its new headquarters and construction expected to near completion on two multi-family residential developments – Riverwalk at the Bridges and the nearby Riverfront Station.
“Combined, these private redevelopments will bring more than 1,300 residents and employees to an area that had been completely dormant for the past eight years,” Branscom said. “That’s dramatic – a real game-changer.”