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This is an excellent article and touches on many points that are integral with the collective consciousness of the city. I lived downtown for many years and loved the energy and people. It has greatly altered since I have lived there, but there are still so many opportunities for growth in establishing Knoxville’s place on the map in terms of having more than just the Sunsphere and UT to categorize it.
Although places like Asheville or Charlotte may not have the same feel, I think the reason they are growing so much has much to do with what they are strategically building or allowing in their downtown districts. I think a big pitfall for the downtown community has everything to do with the properties that have fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect that have not been sold and renovated (or will eventually be unfortunately destroyed, which I would rather not see happen.) Utilizing these could open up the chance for what I believe is key to the progression of our fair city: mixed-use facilities. We are already seeing that in places like Old City, but not on a grand scale. If we can’t build out very much, building UP with a few buildings that house things like a grocery, places to eat and drink, small retail stores, and apartments might draw more people in and give more choices.
Downtown, for me, has always been about having a strong community feel, a rich history, and a progressive attitude. The skyline is great, but if we could allot a site or two for some LEED-certified mixed-use buildings (that look very modern), I feel this would greatly aid the downtown district. I think sustainable design would be a pleasant goal for the new architecture we implement downtown. That is a big catalyst for our neighboring cities. I am a huge fan of what the local Sanders Pace firm is doing locally, because it seems like they are very attentive to context of the city while still coming across as very modern. There are a few firms in town that believe in this aesthetic, and it is very important for us to experiment and be open-minded about modernizing our city while still including its rich history at the forefront.
The other problem we face is that there isn’t much land space left downtown to work with—so in 2012, I am hoping we set our sights on the South Knoxville riverfront. So many cities have revitalized their downtowns with good architecture and landscape design, so I hope that we don't become an exception to that rule. With good design and the right combination of businesses that meet the needs of the growing population of the downtown district, I believe we will see much more interest in our city locally and globally.
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