UT Students Showcase Ideas for Future of Cumberland Ave.

Communications Deputy Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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UT Students Showcase Ideas for Future of Cumberland Ave.

Posted: 04/21/2008
Visions of what a revitalized Cumberland Avenue might look like in the not-too-distant future will be on display from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. on Thursday April 24, in the Downtown Design Studio at 500 Gay Street. 
 
The exhibit, "Cumberland Avenue: 30 Projects in 30 Years" is a collection of 30 hypothetical projects envisioning Cumberland Avenue's future created by students in the University of Tennessee's College of Architecture and Design - based on the guidelines set out in the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Plan.

UT Architecture Professor Marleen Davis will present comments about the exhibit at 5:30 p.m.

The students' ideas range from an ice hockey arena on the west end of Cumberland at 22nd Street to a research incubator on the east end of the strip at 17th Street.

The 15 students are part of Davis' Urban Design class. Each student developed two projects.

Davis said she thought Cumberland Avenue would present a good hypothetical example for the class of fourth and fifth year architecture students to work with and one that that would show people what the avenue could become. 
 
"The students were excited about re-imagining something they were very familiar with," she said about Cumberland, which runs through the UT campus, "and they really enjoyed visiting the City County Building to meet with staff members of the City and MPC. "Although the designs are hypothetical, students like the fact that this is a 'real-life' project, and they have enjoyed the interest in our work."
 
The Cumberland Avenue Corridor Plan was approved last year.

It is the guide for the city's efforts to work with property and business owners, the University of Tennessee and the two hospitals in Fort Sanders to transform Cumberland into a more attractive, thriving and pedestrian-friendly corridor featuring a good mix of retail, residential and business establishments.

At the same time the redesign would effectively move travelers - whether in cars, buses, or on foot - along Cumberland particularly into the UT and downtown areas. 
 
"It is very exciting to see such a diversity of possibilities based on the adopted plan," said Anne Wallace, the city's Cumberland Avenue Project Manager. "The student's work modeling the proposed street conditions and possible building configurations brings a whole new perspective to the vision for Cumberland Avenue." 
 
The exhibit is the result of a semester's worth of work by students in Davis' class using the plan as a springboard for looking into the future to see what it could produce.

Davis said the class started its work in January gathering information from the City and the Metropolitan Planning Commission before brainstorming as a group of what would be appropriate uses for the various blocks.

Students individually worked on their projects.

They imagined the private development on Cumberland given the plan guidelines which call for a street with wider sidewalks, three lanes of traffic instead of four, bus pullouts, decorative street fixtures, and buried utilities among other things.

The works include a mix of realistic concepts taking into account things like current building codes and those expected to be in place in the near future and more fanciful images of what is possible without constraints. 
 
"While it's speculative and hypothetical, the avenue design and the building sizes generally follow MPC guidelines," Davis pointed out. "We demonstrated that a form-based code for buildings is a successful way to allow diversity in individual buildings, while still providing a unifying sense of scale and a unique character for Cumberland Avenue." 
 
The work includes a sorority row along Lake Avenue and a boutique hotel on Cumberland among other possibilities.

A common theme in all the projects is the reconfiguration of Cumberland from four lanes to three lanes resulting in wider sidewalks with room for trees on both sides of the avenue.

Thus, most of the projects have developed amenities aimed at pedestrians.