Proposal to renovate Knoxville’s South High School unveiled

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced a partnership Friday with Dover Development to renovate South High. The proposal would turn the space into senior assisted apartments, while also maintaining the building’s historical exterior.

South Knoxville Junior High was opened in 1937 and designed by architect Charles Barber. The building was used as a junior high and a high school throughout the years. It became vacant in 1991.

“I want to emphasize that this is one of those things that government does because no one else can afford to do it. you simply can’t afford to do it without some public/private partnership,” said Mayor Rogero at a press conference held on the front lawn of the building.

In August, the city requested proposals and Dover Development was the only respondent. A proposed deal will go before the city council on October 25.

Knox County sold the building in 2008 to a private developer at an auction. However, the building remained empty. A protective H-1 historical overlay zoning was placed in 2011 by the city council and the city acquired the property in 2015.

Dover Development, lead by Rick Dover, has already done similar renovations to Oakwood Elementary and Knox High School – turning the spaces into senior assisted living options.

Dover called these types of projects for seniors saying, “it became a kind of mission for us.”

After the press conference, part of the building was open for tours, though guests had to stick to a designated path so as to avoid holes, glass, and remains of the building.

One guest, Peggy Blevins, has a different memory of South High, one that isn’t abandoned. She gave WATE 6 On Your Side her own personal tour filled with high school anecdotes, memories of her locker, and stories about her days in band.

“[What I remember is] the excitement of high school The Beatles, Kennedy was assassinated when we were here. Just everything in the 1960s – Vietnam. A lot of our boys left school and went there,” she said.

Even as she walked through the run down hallways, the proposed plan kept her hopeful.

She said, “It hurts to see it like this it hurts to see something fall apart We made it 50 years why can’t the building make it 50 years?”

Neighbors echoed Belvins’ sentiments saying they just wanted something positive to be done to the building.

“I hope whatever they do it is a big advantage to the area,” said Barron E. Hyatt.

Another neighbor, Mike Wolf said, “If they can put a positive note on the building and help people. We’re all used to it around here nothing beings done.”

The Knoxville City Council will vote on the proposed Dover Development plan next Tuesday.


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