The long awaited opening of Urban Outfitters is finally within sight and set to welcome shoppers on May 2, according to the store's website.
It's been a long journey for the city of Knoxville to bring the trendy retailer to its downtown location, but it's been accomplished. Urban will be housed in the historic Arnstein Building just off the southern corner of Market Square.
To get the building ready for the store's arrival, architect David Dewhirst along with his partner Mark Heinz and their development team turned the building upside down with renovations.
"It's in a seven story historic building that was originally built in 1906, and the renovations to the building were extraordinarily extensive," Dewhirst, who is also co-owner of the building, said. "It's not just opening one store, it's opening an entire high-rise building in downtown Knoxville."
The Arnstein Building will be home not only to Urban Outfitters, but also an architecture firm and apartment residences.
Working on a building that is over a century old has inherent problems, and Dewhirst described what he saw as the largest challenge his team faced when renovating the building.
"Anytime you take on the restoration of a historic building, there's a fine line between doing just any old renovation to it and doing it right," he said. "Going back and trying to bring the building back to its roots will bring the best result."
Without the arrival of Urban Outfitters, however, Dewhirst claimed the project might never have seen the light of day.
"We bought the building five years ago, and for several years we were trying to find the right development path for the building," Dewhirst said. "We needed a great retail presence on the ground floor. Until we found Urban Outfitters we really couldn't start on the project."
Anyone familiar with the popular clothing chain will know that its target demographic is college aged young adults in urban areas. By this standard, Urban Outfitters has struck gold in a town of 27,000 students at UT alone.
"It's marketed toward a younger generation like college students and will be great in a college town," Stephanie Smith, a freshman in psychology, said. "It's definitely popular within the 18-25 demographic."
As Knoxville continues to revitalize the downtown area, students like Smith agree that Urban Outfitters is a good boost to the city's economy.
"I think it's fantastic that Urban Outfitters is coming to Knoxville," Smith said. "I think it's a great fit for how the city is going."
"I think it will pull in a lot of shoppers to that area," Alysse Ness, a junior in biosystems engineering, said. "It will pull in a lot students because it's super trendy. It's a great addition to Market Square."
Students aren't the only people who look forward to what Urban Outfitters will bring to the table for the city of Knoxville.
"For downtown to be successful, it had to be done and it had to be done right," Dewhirst said. "It couldn't just be any retailer; it had to be something special. It's something that Urban Outfitters really represents, the vitality of an urban area."