Public Meeting on Downtown North Streetscape Design Set for Sept. 24

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Public Meeting on Downtown North Streetscape Design Set for Sept. 24

Posted: 09/11/2009
The City of Knoxville will host a public meeting this month to discuss a proposed streetscape design plan aimed at encouraging economic development along sections of the main streets leading into the Downtown North area.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m., Thursday, September 24, at St. John's Lutheran Church, located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. It is the latest in a series of meetings hosted by city officials about the ongoing Downtown North Redevelopment effort.

Previous meetings have focused on revitalization work along North Central Street, particularly in the Happy Hollow area, that included shrinking a four-lane road down to three lanes to create more on-street parking, bike lanes and a pedestrian-friendly environment to benefit businesses.

Bob Whetsel, the city's Director of Redevelopment, said the goal of the upcoming meeting is to give Downtown North residents and business owners an opportunity to look at the proposed plans and provide input the city can use to improve them. 
"What we're doing now is developing a schematic design featuring some general guidelines about how things ought to look, to identify what streets need a road diet and improvements that will make those streets leading into the heart of the downtown neighborhoods more attractive," Whetsel said. 
"The goal is to create a place people want to go, rather than one they want to go through," he added.

The city contracted with a team of engineering and landscape architects, led by Hedstrom Design LLC, earlier this year to develop a streetscape design plan for sections of the Broadway, Central and Gay Street and Fifth Avenue corridors just north of downtown.

The group is identifying a range of infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to the area designed to create a distinct identity and sense of place and determining, in a general sense, things like where travel lanes could be reduced to free up space for on-street parking, walking and cycling.

The architects are also identifying places where landscaping and sidewalk improvements could make the corridors more attractive and determining cost estimates for those improvements. 
"What we want to do is come up a general plan that we can follow to make these improvements that will spur redevelopment along those particular corridors," Whetsel said. "The city isn't doing the redevelopment itself, instead we're trying to put the infrastructure in place that will aid those folks who are interested in living in or developing businesses in these areas turn their ideas into reality." 
"As we head into the next budget year, this should give us some projects that we can start trying to fund," he said.

North Central and Broadway are the two main thoroughfares of Downtown North, which is generally defined by Depot Street on the south, I-275 to the west, Woodland Avenue to the north and Hall of Fame Drive on the east.

The revitalization effort rose out of the interest many people have expressed in living or operating businesses in the century old area north of downtown that once featured thriving businesses and neighborhoods.

The City of Knoxville supports that and ultimately would like to see the main streets in Downtown North become more of a mixed-use zone with residential, retail and business elements - in the same buildings in some cases - facing a pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly streets.