Historic Tennessee Theatre announces expansion into 612 Building

 From its historic opening as a movie palace to becoming the region’s leading performing arts venue, the Tennessee Theatre begins its 96th year by looking to the future and announcing its expansion into the historic 612 Building, formally known as the Mechanics’ Bank and Trust Building, at 612 S. Gay Street. The expansion will allow the Theatre to enhance its mission serving as the arts and entertainment cornerstone in Knoxville and expand cultural enrichment and enjoyment for all.

Although the front of the 612 Building is two doors down from the entrance of the Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street, the unique footprint of the structure allows a connection between the building’s east end and the Tennessee Theatre’s auditorium foyers on both the main and balcony levels. This will allow entrance from the Theatre foyers into the expanded space to access amenities such as increased concessions and restrooms. Other spaces of the 612 Building will provide ample room for enhanced education, outreach, and partnership opportunities, allowing the Theatre to better serve the community, and the street-level space will serve as a separate reception or gathering place for pre- and post-show events.

“The 612 Building is the perfect fit for a Tennessee Theatre expansion based on its adjacent location and its own unique historic character. The floors now owned by the Theatre will fulfill operational, programmatic, and partnership goals that weren’t able to be fully realized in the Theatre’s comprehensive renovation project completed almost 20 years ago,” Tennessee Theatre Executive Director Becky Hancock said. “We cannot wait to show the community how this exciting opportunity will breathe new life into another beautiful historic building in downtown Knoxville, while enhancing and enriching a treasured Knoxville landmark. Just as the 2005 renovation did, this project will transform the future of the Tennessee Theatre and set the stage for an exciting second century.”

The renovation of the 612 Building is expected to begin in April 2024, led by construction manager Jenkins & Stiles and project managers Partners Development, along with architect McCarty Holsaple McCarty, with an anticipated completion in 12 to 15 months.

“The Tennessee Theatre is a driver of arts and culture in the region and has helped establish Knoxville as an arts and cultural destination,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “The 612 Building expansion helps continue the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation’s mission to ensure that diverse arts and cultural enrichment remains in downtown Knoxville and impacts the community through education and enrichment in addition to entertainment.”

Not only will the community benefit from the expansion, but the 612 Building also will support the region’s tourism with more opportunities for events and programming.

“The Tennessee Theatre has been instrumental for the area’s tourism as the region’s leading performing arts venue with advanced technology, staging and lighting that draws top entertainment to Knoxville,” Visit Knoxville President Kim Bumpas said. “The 612 Building will strengthen the wonderful experience our guests have when they visit the Tennessee Theatre.”

The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, a nonprofit tasked with preserving the historic Theatre and ensuring diverse arts and cultural entertainment remains in downtown Knoxville, purchased more than 16,000 sf of property in the 612 Building in early 2019. To fully renovate the historic building and integrate it into the Grand Entertainment Palace, the Theatre set a total fundraising goal of $19 million. Over the past five years, the Theatre’s board of directors and staff have worked tirelessly toward this goal and now have more than $14 million secured.

The Tennessee Theatre would like to thank lending partner FirstBank for providing a line of credit to ensure there is no delay in construction while the remainder of the goal is fundraised.

Knox Heritage, a nonprofit committed to the preservation of historically significant structures and places, applauded the Theatre for its efforts to fully restore the 612 Building and ensure its longevity well into the future.

“On behalf of Knox Heritage, thank you to the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation for its vision and dedication to the 612 Building,” Knox Heritage Executive Director Christine Cloninger said. “The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation has proven it knows how to restore, preserve and utilize historic buildings to their full potential as the Tennessee Theatre is a historic building itself. The foundation will ensure the 612 Building is well maintained as it is enjoyed, usable to the community and impacts the city of Knoxville in a spectacular way.”

Learn more about this project at tennesseetheatre.com/612.



About the Tennessee Theatre

The Tennessee Theatre opened its doors in 1928 as a movie palace in the heart of downtown Knoxville and was transformed into an arts and entertainment venue after a $30 million renovation was completed in 2005. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, today’s Tennessee Theatre has something for everyone: classical music, vintage films, dance, Broadway, and stellar performances by today’s hottest musicians and yesterday’s favorites. The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation was established in 1996 as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and operate the Theatre as a cultural cornerstone for the enrichment and enjoyment of all. For more information, visit tennesseetheatre.com.