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Smart Growth America to Focus on Possibilities of Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District 
What's the potential for lots of small locally-owned businesses to sprout up along the Magnolia Avenue corridor? In its next chapter, will the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District become an economic powerhouse that creates jobs?

Smart Growth America recognizes that diamond-in-the-rough potential - as well as the City of Knoxville's tools and willingness to rekindle business growth.

The non-profit picked the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District as one of just four projects nationally for the launch of its new Small Scale Manufacturing and Place Based Economic Development technical assistance program. The City's Office of Redevelopment and Community Development Department partnered with the Metropolitan Planning Commission in seeking the Smart Growth America expertise.

In the first half of 2017, Smart Growth America will be talking with East Knoxville stakeholders, residents and entrepreneurs and conducting open workshops to frame the possibilities for the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District, which stretches from the Old City to Bertrand Street, and from Interstate 40 to Summit Hill Drive. ​

The Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District is one of four projects chosen nationally by Smart Growth America to receive business-support planning assistance this year.

The staff at Smart Growth America believes in helping every town and city become a more economically prosperous, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable place to live. The goals may differ for every community, but the aim is always to improve lives by improving neighborhoods.

The Smart Growth America expertise will focus on "place-making" on Magnolia Avenue and "place-based economic development."

"The first thing to understand is what 'small-scale manufacturing' is," said Bryan Berry, Project Manager with the City's Office of Redevelopment. "That doesn't mean a big factory with an assembly line. It is typically a small business with fewer than 10 employees - like an artist's workshop, a glassmaker, a woodworker or a craft brewer. They produce small-scale handcrafted products for a niche market, but can sell anywhere thanks to the Internet.

"Of course, the beauty of the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District is that it already has its own distinct character. As the district revitalizes, we want it to continue to represent the diverse communities that are a part of the district."

Census data shows that small businesses with fewer than 10 employees made up 53 percent of all manufacturers in Knoxville in 2002. In 2007, that number increased to 58 percent, while the latest data shows 62 percent of Knoxville manufacturers in 2012 had fewer than 10 employees.

"This trend illustrates the shift from factories as historically large, isolated structures, to new models that are smaller and can integrate better with other land uses," Berry wrote in the SGA application.

This year, work will begin on an $8 million streetscape upgrade on Magnolia, between Jessamine and North Bertrand streets. That was cited in the SGA application as an example of the City's commitment to the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District. In fact, a total of $32 million is being invested on streetscapes on three corridors in the district.

Other tools that are being used include the City's Commercial Facade Grant Program. Over six years, more than $930,000 has been spent in partnership with property owners as they have invested in rejuvenating their buildings.

The modernization of the City's zoning ordinance and the City's embrace of entrepreneurship and the Makers Movement also are cited in the City's application to Smart Growth America.

Other communities being assisted by Small Growth America technical assistance this year are Lowell, Mass.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Youngstown and Warren, Ohio.

Posted by evreeland On 15 February, 2017 at 1:07 PM