- Knox County Mayor Preservation Award 2015
- Knox Heritage Fantastic Fifteen Award 2015
Photos before renovation:
Oakwood Senior Living
Knoxville’s Oakwood neighborhood has undergone a revival, and one of its crown jewels received a much-needed makeover. With an initial investment of $6.5 million, Dover Signature Properties transformed Oakwood School, a beautiful 1914 Beaux Arts building, into a top-of-the-line assisted living facility with a specialty wing for patients with Alzheimer’s and other memory problems.
Recapturing the school’s faded personality was not a small task. Actually, you might say it had multiple personalities—additions to the building were made first in 1946, when post-war minimalism was the taste of the day, and then in 1955, when a “Jetson”-esque vision of the future inspired classroom design across America with metal window frames and flat roofs.
But beyond uniting disparate architectural styles, Dover’s main challenge was that Oakwood School sustained serious structural damage over the last decade. The last time elementary-school students sat in its chairs was 1995, and recent efforts to reclaim it for other functions failed as the building deteriorated. Vandals broke the windows, the building narrowly escaped a fire, and the leaking roof finally collapsed onto the third floor.
“It was scary in there,” Rick Dover says. “When we began inspecting the site, it was potentially unsafe to walk around inside. The windows were basically gone and the place had been overrun by pigeons.”
But Dover could see that the potential for turnaround was great. The original part of the building featured handmade bricks, walls a foot-and-a-half thick, 12-foot ceilings, 12-foot-wide hallways, and windows eight to ten feet high. “The building is absolutely gorgeous,” Dover says. Now that the renovation is complete, the building conforms to LEED standards, which means that it meets a stringent set of environmental requirements:
- Fully $1 million of the total investment went toward sealing the building envelope and installing an ultra-efficient heat pump system with a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating.
- Dover Signature Properties contracted with Tennessee Valley Authority to outfit the roof with solar panels, which are expected to provide up to 25% of the building’s electricity.
- The roof is reflective, the windows are ultra-efficient, and most lighting is LED.
- Materials salvaged from the old building were reused: original wood was planed into new furniture, and marble from the old bathrooms can be seen in the new ones.
Each classroom of the old school building is now a residential apartment; the facility houses 62 senior citizens and has created 30 new healthcare jobs. Oakwood residents, who are enjoying an influx of new businesses and new families after years of seeing their neighborhood decline, are very happy with the outcome.
“I think the neighborhood is comforted to know this building has been respectfully redone,” Dover says, “and that there is a hub of activity in what had essentially become a black hole. We want to be a good neighbor and a stabilizing force in this community.”