"Shot of Urban" began appearing in these pages in March of this year. And this Year in Review issue seems as good a time as any to look back at some past columns to see what's changed-—or hasn't—since they ran. So, without further ado, let's take that look.
In my introductory column, I lamented that despite all the money the city had invested in Market Square—our premier pedestrian centerpiece—no crosswalks had been provided to access it. Since then, not only has the city marked crosswalks on Union Avenue, but also at a number of other intersections that were affected by the reconfiguration of traffic flow. Perhaps since Wall Street, on the opposite end of the Square, didn't see any changes, the city didn't deem it worthy of its own crosswalk.
I griped in my "Mulch Ado About Nothing" piece that there were a lot of empty planters and tree wells lining our streets. Shortly after, several of the locations I mentioned saw plantings. But we're still missing that one tree on the Square. I'm hoping next year we'll get the place dressed up in time for the Dogwood Arts Festival. If the 'burbs can do it, why can't downtown?
My "One-Year Plan to End Panhandling" still has a few months left in it (just as the clock is ticking on the city's 10-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness). Stop paying people to lie to you and they'll stop asking! There's still time, and the buck you save may be your own.
Then there was my "Bacon and Eggs and Potatoes, Oh My" column. Some people are still stuck on the downtown-needs-a-grocery-store mantra. But I've watched more grocery efforts fail here since moving downtown than heard neighbors' complaints of empty pantries due to the nearest grocery being (gasp!) about a mile (with the nearest supermarket less than one-and-a-quarter miles) from Market Square. Meanwhile, we can still enjoy the fruits of the Farmers' Market there more months than not.
Checking in with Madeleine Weil, the city's deputy director of policy and communications, I've learned that the city's still working to curb "The Babylon of Box Blight" I wrote about in May. But she assured me that Market Square will see two installations to address unsightly placement of newspaper boxes during the second week of January. A "‘condo' design will be at the south end," along with a "corral" design on the north, according to Weil.
"The Uncommon Community" of downtown continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Finding an open barstool has now taken the lead over finding an open parking spot (dammit!). I regularly see familiar faces showing downtown off to others who, in turn, often become familiar faces as well. And more people seem to be getting to the Tennessee Theatre and Mast General Store without asking directions.
"The Lone Horseman" I wrote about in September didn't exactly ride off into the sunset from the sidewalk of the 400 block of Gay Street. According to Bill Lyons, senior director of policy and communications for the city, it was escorted by the city of Knoxville earlier this month to the city's State Street Warehouse.
"J.D. Lee had placed the statue on the sidewalk in front of his office on Gay Street," says Lyons. "In response to our request, he agreed to have it moved from Gay Street by the end of November. My understanding is that he has sold it, but that there were some issues that made it impossible to have it off the street by the agreed-upon time."
The KPD impound lot charges $8 per day (beginning on the fourth day) for vehicles towed there. I'm not sure what the city's livery fees are for abandoned statues, but I'll trust it's comparable.
A few weeks back, I wrote about trying to extract some simple information about owntown parking and moving violations from The System. But the court administrator was right about the software—it sucks. The report I received that was supposed to be limited to downtown included a citation issued at "Asheville Highway/John Sevier." I've since requested a meeting with Darryl DeBusk, KPD's public information officer. But apparently he hasn't been able to find an open spot on his calendar for about three weeks now. He doesn't seem to have time for Information Officering to the Public.
Finally, some odds and ends: KAT bus drivers are still to be feared. Gay Street still needs appropriate markings on the street, fewer signs, and fewer red lights per intersection. And please stop parking on the sidewalks. (That especially goes for city vehicles, which have turned the sidewalk next to the East Tennessee History Center into their own private parking lot).
That about wraps it up for this year. But I'll be keeping an eye out for more fodder for the future. There's no shortage of it downtown.