Realtors bring new life to old church

Sandra ClarkOur Town Leaders, South Knox

Finally, retail comes to Urban Wilderness

Two commercial Realtors with Realty Executives Associates have preserved a historic church and created a retail area adjacent to Baker Creek Preserve in Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

Jay Benson and Tim Duff formed a partnership with three others to purchase the former Sevier Heights Baptist Church. Partners are Thomas Krajewski, Jason Stouffer and Chris Spiller.

Interior of 71 South shows abundant natural light. The restaurant is open from 11 to 11.

The former sanctuary is now a bar and restaurant – 71 South. That’s a nod toward TDOT’s SR 71, designed to extend James White Parkway to Chapman and John Sevier highways. The route was terminated in 2015 at the behest of Mayor Madeline Rogero who opted not to bisect Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness.

Now the terminus of a four-lane divided highway has become the gateway to the Urban Wilderness at the Baker Creek Preserve.

“We are the landlords,” said Benson, of a building that contains a restaurant, bike shop, apothecary and brewery.

Co-owner Ryan Steffy is the face of 71 South. He told WATE reporter Tala Shatara in a June 2023 interview that the renovation took almost two years and the goal was to build around the beauty of the work that is already there.

“It’s a beautiful building with architecture that speaks for itself,” Steffy says. Original pews and hardwood floors were retained (the pews serve as dividers) and the pulpit is the greeter’s stand. The replacement windows retain the original shape. The restaurant is one-of-a-kind.

From food to entertainment, 71 South is bringing fun for the whole family. Info: website or call 865-240-3900.

Tim Duff

Tim Duff began working with Realty Executives Commercial at the end of 2018. He was formerly with Coldwell Banker Commercial Wallace & Wallace for 20 years. During his time there he received the “Top Commercial Sales Associate” award in the state of Tennessee in 2002, 2005, 2010 and 2015. Duff is a Knoxville native and a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree. He works in all facets of commercial real estate including retail, office, industrial, raw land and multi-family.

Jay Benson

Jarrett “Jay” Benson was born and raised in Knoxville. He graduated from the University of Tennessee School of Architecture and Design and worked in the design field for several years before beginning to invest in real estate. He has purchased, rehabbed and operated multi-family, industrial, self-storage and retail. His passion is bringing new life to blighted and underutilized properties and creating value in the process. Benson Jay is interested in building long term relationships with new or seasoned investors. Both work from the West Hills office of Realty Executives.

Baker Creek Preserve is one of the most popular trailheads in the Urban Wilderness, according to Visit Knoxville. Located just three miles from downtown, the 100-acre preserve offers a greenway and play forest for kids in addition to a bike park. Developed by the AMBC (Appalachian Mountain Bike Club), the park has three dodwnhill mountain bike trails plus five multiuse trails. The park hosts eight miles of trail and connects to the other 52 miles of trails in the network. The entrance is at 3700 Lancaster Drive.


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