Historic Zoning Commission

Fourth and Gill H: Level III


Staff Recommendation for New primary structure (townhouses)

The Commission should discuss the townhouses' proposed style and their visual compatibility with the surrounding context; the narrow massing of the individual units in relation to the block; and the proposed roof and window forms.

Pending approval or additional conditions based on the above topics, staff recommends approval of Certificate 5-H-22-HZ subject to the following conditions:
1) Meeting all relevant dimensional and design standards for the C-G-2 zoning (5.3 and 5.4);
2) Meeting principal use standards for townhouse dwellings (9.3.I);
3) Incorporating a decorative wall, building extension, or other tactic determined to increase the building's visual depth along Gill Avenue, with approval by staff
4) All fiber cement lap siding to be smooth-finished and use an exposure pattern compatible with historic siding;
5) Meeting all relevant landscaping standards of the zoning code (12.7.B);
6) Final site plan to meet City Engineering standards

Applicant Request

Other: New construction

New townhouse development at the intersection of N. 4th Avenue and Gill Avenue; façades will front N. 4th Avenue and side elevation will front Gill Avenue. The development includes eight adjoining townhouses, with an overall rectangular footprint measuring 144' long. The townhouses are 21'-6" wide with an additional 7' deep front porch on the south elevation (fronting Gill Street), and 26'-5" wide on the north elevation. The overall massing features eight adjoining 18' wide, three-story townhouses. The townhouses have individual, 8/12 pitch, front-gable roofs, intersected by lower 4/12 pitch roof crickets for drainage. The roofs are clad in asphalt shingles, the exteriors are clad in brick veneer, and any visible foundations are clad in brick. Windows are aluminum-clad wood.

The townhouses are proposed to be set 15' from the front property line, with the front porches set 12'-11" from the front property line. A paved parking area is located to the rear of the townhouses, accessed by a 22' wide driveway extending north from Gill Street. The parking area provides 14 parking spots and is 43' wide at the widest section.

Each unit's façade (east) features three stories. The lower two stories are clad in brick veneer, which projects outward on the right side of each unit, creating a series of repeating rectangular massings. A horizontal dimensional brick veneer pattern is applied to units 1 and 2, and 5 and 6, with an alternating dimensional brick pattern at units 3 and four, and 7 and 8. On the left side of the first story, a 7' deep front porch is topped by a flat roof which projects outward from the façade. The third story features a porch recessed below the primary roof gable, which features a gable field clad in a decorative wood screen. The third story is clad in fiber cement lap siding.

Each façade features a 7' by 6' two-light fixed window, an aluminum-clad entry recessed and set at a 90-degree angle to the entry porch, and a 6' by 3' fixed single-light window on the projecting rectangular massing. Two additional single-light windows (one 6' by 4' window and one smaller 4' by 2'-6 rectangle) are located on the second story. Recessed on the third story are an additional rectangular fixed window and a full-light aluminum-clad wood door adjoining a full-light sidelight.

The south elevation (fronting Gill Avenue) features fixed, single-lights windows on the first, second, and third stories, with wall openings on the first and third story porches.

The west (rear) elevations feature a section of dimensional brick veneer extending between the first and second stories, with the remainder clad in fiber cement lap siding. Fixed, single-light windows, 4' wide by 2'-6" tall, are located on the first, second, and third stories, with sections of flat fiber cement panels. A secondary entry is provided for each unit, topped by a flat metal canopy.

The north elevation features a two-story, rectangular massing clad in brick veneer with the recessed section clad in fiber cement lap siding. A wall opening is located at the third-story roof terrace.

Site Info


Vacant lots.

1. The property to receive new construction is zoned C-G-2, which is a general commercial zoning district "intended to provide for a heterogeneous mix of retail, personal service, office, and residential uses within and along Knoxville's commercial nodes and corridors. The C-G district is intended to promote mixed-use development in a pedestrian-oriented environment." The proposed townhouses are a permitted use in the C-G-2 zoning and will continue the residential use pattern of the overall neighborhood, while locating increased density on the neighborhood's edge.

2. The C-G-2 zoning includes dimensional standards distinct from typical residential zoning, including a 0' to 20' build-to zone instead of a minimum front setback. The C-G-2 zoning also carries design standards for façade and fenestration design, including a minimum transparency on 30% of the façade's ground floor and 15% on the upper floors. The design standards are generally compatible with the Fourth and Gill neighborhood design guidelines and appear to be met by the proposed design. Final review of the C-G-2 zoning will be completed during permitting and any modifications should also adhere to the design guidelines.

3. The zoning code also carries specific principal use standards for new townhouses. These standards include the use of consistent materials which wrap around all elevations; the use of windows, projected or recessed entries, and other dimensional elements on facades; and a minimum separation of 15' between sidewalls of townhouse buildings. Final review of the principal use standards will be completed during permitting and any modifications should also adhere to the design guidelines.

4. The townhouses are proposed for two lots which are uniquely sized for Fourth and Gill. Both lots were originally approximately 150' deep, consistent with the neighborhood pattern. 803 N. Fourth Ave (161 N. Fourth Ave on the 1890 Sanborn map) has remained at 100' wide since at least 1890, and originally held one house and an outbuilding. 807 N. Fourth Ave is 50 feet wide. The lots were cut in half in the mid-1960s when I-40 was constructed to the immediate west of the subject properties (and further decreased in size when the interstate was widened around 2006). The properties are on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, severed from the rest of the context by I-40. The two lots will be combined into one property. The subject property is a corner lot, which requires additional elaboration on the side elevation.

5. The house's proposed setback is 15' from the primary massings to the front property line, and 12'-11" from the front porches to the front property line. The adjacent house is approximately 17' from the front property line. The proposed townhouses will maintain the historic façade lines of the block and continue the established front setback pattern. The townhouses are clearly oriented towards N. Fourth Ave and set at a consistent angle to the street.

6. Guidelines recommend avoiding "replicating or imitating the styles, motifs, or details of older periods," and encourage compatibility in interpretation of historic styles and forms seen in the neighborhood. While buildings should "respond to the present time, environment, and use for which they are intended," they should also be "sensitive to patterns already in their environment" and avoid being "visually incompatible." The proposed house is contemporary in style and uses steeply-pitched front-gable roofs and siding details to connect to the neighborhood context. The Commission should discuss if the proposal is visually compatible with the historic context.

7. Due to the building form and use, the townhouses' proportions differ from the single-family houses fronting N. Fourth Ave and in the broader neighborhood. At 32' tall to the roof's midpoint and approximately 41' from street-level to roof peak, the townhouses are shorter in height than the adjacent house at 815 N. Fourth Avenue. The reduced height assists in the townhouses' compatibility with the context, despite the units being three stories tall. Guidelines recommend constructing new buildings to equal the average height of buildings on the street, which this application does achieve.

8. The individual townhouses are more narrow in both façade width and side elevation depth than historic houses in the neighborhood. In particular, the Gill Avenue (south) elevation will be significantly smaller than the neighborhood context. The Commission and applicants should discuss tactics to create a more substantial visual presence from Gill Avenue, including extending a full- or half-height masonry wall towards the west if a larger building is not possible. While line-of-sight issues associated with the parking lot and driveway may challenge this detail, a revised proposal for this element could be reviewed by staff and/or the Commission along with City Engineering.

9. To break up the large form and the narrow townhouse units, the proposal uses projecting rectangular sections, siding details, and recessed porches to create smaller varied massings. The design successfully creates a "variety of form and massing" recommended by the guidelines. The "mix of wall areas with door and window openings" noted in the guidelines is applied in a contemporary style, with asymmetrically-arranged contemporary window forms and porch elements. Also using a contemporary interpretation, the "vertical façade character" of the townhouses are compatible with the adjacent house at 815 N. Fourth, as that house incorporates strong intersecting vertical and horizontal elements with the two-story, flat roof porch.

10. The proposal uses gable roof forms to "relate to roof forms [...] found in the area." Due to the narrow size of the individual townhouses, the roof forms are smaller in size than a typical historic house's front-gable roof and repeated eight times. The 8/12 gable roofs are compatible with historic forms in the neighborhood, though more narrow as the proposal accommodates eight individual units with eight roofs. The application does include eave overhangs on side and rear elevations. The Commission should discuss the proposed roof forms.

11. The building appears to be designed for a slab foundation, a variation from the design guidelines which may be appropriate for this particular site. The applicant should clarify the proposed foundation method and height for the Commission's further input.

12. Guidelines recommend a "strong sense of entry." The proposal includes doors which are set at a 90-degree angle to the façade and recessed on a porch, though the porch also features significant transparency via a 7' tall two-light window. The Commission should discuss if this provides a sufficiently strong sense of entry.

13. The design includes a 7' deep, approximately 10' wide front porch for each unit; the porches are a good interpretation of the guidelines' emphasis on new front porches to the townhouse form and a contemporary style. The townhouse units also include an additional third-story balcony and recessed porch.

14. Asphalt shingles are an appropriate roofing material within the design guidelines. The final selection should use dark green, dark gray, black, or another dark color to simulate roof colors on historic houses.

15. While the aluminum-clad wood door with one narrow vertical light is distinct from historic door forms, it is compatible with the townhouses' overall style and will be minimally visible from the right-of-way, since it will be set at 90-degree angle to the façade and recessed on a porch.

16. Fiber cement lap siding has been approved previously for new construction in the Fourth and Gill overlay, most recently for new construction on Deery and Morgan Streets. The final siding selection should be smooth-finished instead of faux-grained and use an exposure width compatible with historic siding (usually 4" or 5").

17. The use of brick cladding will further connect with historic structures in the neighborhood, especially as many of the masonry buildings in Fourth and Gill are also historic multi-family structures. The applicant has opted to alternate the dimensional brick pattern on pairs of units to visually align the narrow units with larger widths.

18. The application includes a substantial amount of transparency, provided by fixed and casement single-light aluminum-clad wood windows. Aluminum-clad wood windows have been approved for new construction projects in Fourth and Gill. The windows vary in size, orientation, and arrangement. In the opinion of staff, the window forms would most likely not be appropriate as replacement windows, for additions to historic houses, or for other locations in Fourth and Gill. Guidelines note that windows are critical elements in making new construction compatible with the historic character. The Commission should discuss the various window forms and their appropriateness for the design and the overall context.

19. The rear elevations will be minimally visible from both Fourth and Gill Avenues, and visible primarily from the interstate. The Commission may choose to discuss any additional design elements to create visual interest to a relatively flat elevation.

20. The application includes a rear parking area with the minimum amount of parking spots required by the property's base zoning and use, including a potential reduction for a nearby bus stop. Some revisions to the parking area and site plan may be required in permitting; final site plan should meet City Engineering standards.

21. The application includes some proposed landscaping as shown on the site plan. The final drawings will need to meet all relevant landscaping requirements from the City zoning code (including 12.7.B for multi-family developments).

22. The site plan and elevation drawings indicate retention of/repair to the original corner steps at the intersection of Fourth and Gill, and the existing stairs further north on Fourth Avenue. These elements, along with the existing retaining wall, are character-defining features for the block and should be preserved.


Dawn Snyder Ally Architecture

Planning Staff
Lindsay Crockett
Phone: (865) 215-3795
Email: lindsay.crockett@knoxplanning.org
Location Knoxville
803 N. Fourth Ave. 37917

Kenn Davin