For the umpteeumpth consecutive year, new plans were heralded for downtown revitalization with very little to show for them. On the heels of 1996's Big Steps planning process that hasn't gotten a foot off the ground, 1997 begat a plan to develop a redevelopment plan for the Market Square area by sometime in 1998. And as the year came to a close, there was also a movement underway to come up with a new downtown master plan whose boosters at the Central Business Improvement District claim would be "more encompassing" than a 1988 predecessor plan whose compass has long since lost its pointer.
Yet even as the master planners were doing their noodling at Harold's Deli, lobbyists for locating a new convention center adjacent to the Radisson Hotel were parading plans for bulldozing Harold's along with the rest of the one part of downtown that's become resurgent on its own: namely, Gay Street's 100 block.
"It sounds like urban cleansing, leading to another civil war," says David Dewhurst, owner of one of the upscale condos that's part of the eclectic residential, commercial, and cultural mix that makes the 100 block a showcase of urban diversity.
If civil war can be averted, 1998 could just be the year when good things actually start to happen. Convention center plans are due to be rolled out shortly after the first of the year and appear to be on a fast track toward drawing enough visitors to Knoxville to rejuvenate the creaky Old City. Will this someday make Knoxville a great place to visit as well as a great place to live?
I SAY TIVOLI, YOU SAY INFINITY
As the 15th anniversary of the 1982 World's Fair rolled by in early May, it was tempting to say that all that remained of Knoxville's brief stint as international hostess was an awkward bit of green space, a dirty pool, and a heap o' debt. But for whatever reason—maybe it's a feng shui thing—that particular field of dreams continues to attract big thinkers with big ideas. Prime concept number one remains developer Earl Worsham's Tivoli Gardens plan to build a retail, restaurant, and entertainment complex along the park's perimeter. It awaits the blessing of the World's Fair Park study committee appointed by City Council (and headed by man-of-all-hats Jim Haslam), and a $40 million parking garage that Rep. Jimmy Duncan is trying to get funded with federal highway money.
Then there was Chris Gettelfinger, the carrot-topped Sequoyah Hills developer who stunned the city's knee-jerk naysayers into at least a momentary silence last August by spending Moskos-only-knows how much money on an eight-page color insert in the News-Sentinel. The brochure detailed Gettelfinger's proposal to put something called Infinity Park on the World's Fair site, centered around Infinity Tower, a lipstick-phallus monolith where people from all over the world would come to leave mementos for examination by future generations. (The plan also called for an infinity fountain, a rock that would be the "most touched place in the world," and, uh, a comedy museum and hotel). Observers agreed Gettelfinger's sincerity was refreshing, and maybe even endearing, but his ideas themselves generated less enthusiasm.
BUT CAN HE COOK?
Who was the most influential Knoxvillian of the year? Well, you could make a case for that Manning fella, we suppose, but in terms of sheer backstage clout, it was hard to top the number of strings being pulled in 1997 by Jim Haslam. The Pilot Corp. magnate, who's never been elected to any office, found himself shepherding plans for both the development of the World's Fair Park and the new proposed Knoxville convention center. A perennial UT donor, Haslam was also the guy who rushed in at the last minute to try to keep basketball coach Kevin O'Neill from bolting to Northwestern. And he was a key player behind the scenes in the effort to combine our disparate economic development groups into a "superchamber" of commerce. Whew. This is what he calls retired?
We thought about sending our female reporter to June's massive Promise Keepers rally at Neyland Stadium dressed as a guy. That way, we thought, those involved with this controversial all-male religious movement might be more willing to open up and tell us what they really thought.
As it turned out, there was no need for such stealth tactics. Knoxville's "PK" supporters, both male and female, were refreshingly open regarding their views on a variety of topics, including male leadership in the home:
* "I have grown to believe that families need men in leadership positions. I think men today are hesitant to lead because they don't realize that women really want them to. There are areas, like spiritually, where men need to take the lead and set an example of integrity. In an institution, someone has got to have 51 percent of the vote. I realize that some people are uncomfortable with that concept, but I no longer am."
—Knoxvillian Debbie Patrick
* "Anyone who knows me knows that I am in favor of equality, but just like in a company, somebody has to have the last word. I feel that the Scriptures support the man's role in this way."
—Knoxvillian Ann Furrow
* "We invite homosexuals to the conference. Just like liars, thieves, murderers, and other sinners, they are invited. After all, Jesus said that he didn't come for the healthy, but for the sick."
—Paul Osborne, Promise Keepers' East Tennessee Field Ministry Representative
And minority participation:
* "I can't go into details, but inner city leaders here have given me assurances that at least 5,000 ethnic men will be at the Knoxville conference."
—Promise Keepers official Kerry Woo.
Critics of the PK philosophy interviewed for our cover story voiced their wonderment that an organization with views such as these could be so openly courted by Knoxville/Knox County municipal leaders and then offered the virtually unheard of option of holding their event in the state government-owned Neyland Stadium.
Despite the controversy, the PK folks successfully launched their summer tour in Knoxville and then picked up steam all the way until October, when the group gathered in Washington, D.C., for what is believed to be the largest religious rally in U.S. history.
A YEAR OF GRISLY CRIMES
Kathy Beadle's parents in Middle Tennessee were worried. Her loving "husband," Tony Vick (who turned out to be neither loving nor her husband), had told them she'd gone up to Canada in April 1996 for medical treatment and would contact them shortly. They waited. Then they called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and then they waited some more. They called the Knox County Sheriff's Department, which sent a body-sniffing dog out to Beadle's West Knoxville home and found her body buried under the patio March 10, 1997. A few days later, Tony Vick, who had flown the coop, and was living in Atlantic City with a gay lover, got popped while trying to shoplift a cheap suit. He confessed, got a life sentence, and has been charged with drowning a previous spouse in a hot tub.
Vidar Lillelid and his wife Delphina were devout Jehovah's Witnesses who couldn't resist sharing their faith with others. They'd been to a big religious affair in Johnson City last April and were on their way home with their two small children, Tabitha and Peter, when they stopped at a rest stop on I-81 near Greeneville. Shortly thereafter, their bodies were found on a side road nearby. Only Peter survived the shooting, and later in the year, he would become the center of a custody fight between his parents' families. His father's family won, and Peter was off to Sweden with them to continue his recuperation. Six Kentucky teenagers were arrested at the Mexican border and charged with the crime.
Scott Loveday, 21, was a good kid who was shot dead for his wristwatch and a dollar bill. On Aug. 24, Loveday had stopped to use a pay phone at a Kingston Pike convenience store, where he was robbed and murdered. He had a dollar in his pocket. Four teenagers have been charged with the killing.
CHURCH AVENUE BLUES
A policeman's mantra is to protect and serve. But this year, the Knoxville Police Department also had to protect and serve themselves.
That's how it seems to many Knoxville residents, especially in the black community, after a year of bad press for the KPD.
Sgt. David McGoldrick, a 26-year veteran, crashed into a woman's car at Dr. Martin Luther King and Ben Hur avenues Feb. 7. McGoldrick fled the scene and later tried to cover the incident up by reporting the car stolen. He eventually confessed, retired, and was sentenced to probation, with the chance to wipe his record clean next year.
Officers John Kemp Jr. and Michael Sweat resigned in November rather than face a hearing on charges they lied to an internal probe. The officers were trying to cover up an illegal search of a suspect's home in which they took some of his belongings. And Officer Larry Steve Roberts was fired July 1 after breaking into his ex-wife's home.
But what really infuriated people was the killing of two black men in their homes by white police officers attempting to apprehend them.
On June 3, six officers went to the home of James Woodfin, after he failed to appear in court on a disorderly conduct charge. The officers kicked in the bathroom door, finding Woodfin on the toilet _ pointing a shotgun at them. The 63-year-old man fired and was shot by police. A department investigation cleared the officers of wrongdoing.
Juan Daniels, 25, was killed in the basement of his home Oct. 17. Police had been called to the Lansing Avenue residence for a domestic dispute. Daniels was alone in the basement with the lights off, holding a hunting knife to his throat. After talking with him for a little more than an hour, police said Daniels charged them with the knife. They shot him eight times. Daniels had asked to speak with his social worker and friends, but police refused.
The Daniels killing especially has galvanized black residents, who are calling for a citizens review board and greater police accountability. In Knoxville, police don't show African Americans (especially those with obvious emotional problems) the compassion and consideration they do whites, some say.
Mayor Victor Ashe created a task force to look at how the police deal with people, the department's training program, and how it handles complaints. They will also consider whether a community review board is needed.
But Police Chief Phil Keith (who is on the task force) and Mayor Ashe have already said they're against the idea. At one task force meeting, member Alonzo Montgomery questioned whether the group could really accomplish anything: "I don't see where we're going to get a community review board. Those in charge are kicking against it."
For now, police seem more cautious in dealing with violent confrontations. On Nov. 20, they negotiated with a 29-year-old black man for 13 hours while he held an adult and two young girls hostage at a Prestwick Ridge Way apartment. The man finally surrendered.
Where there were once riverboat wharves and fishermen's shacks—and, for the last 40 or 50 years, nothing at all—Knoxville now has an sleek new beachside veranda where we can re-acquaint ourselves with the Tennessee River, and with our own history. Below the Henley and Gay Street Bridges, on the river side of Neyland Drive, huge marble historical markers commemorate everything from children's novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett to Coach Neyland, and anecdotal river-gazing stations offer recorded stories about Knoxville's river history (narrated by Bill Landry, of course) while whimsically timed fountains tease the young'uns.
But most of all, it's great to have a place to walk and look at the river that brought us all together here in the first place. Some look at the river and see herons and geese and the swift longboats of UT's rowing teams. Others look at the same river and see dirty water, the giant tanks of Holston Gas, and a hospital that wasn't designed to be looked at. At least now we're looking.
Scores of joggers, some retired couples, and a few bicycling families have discovered Volunteer Landing's charms on a Sunday afternoon in the fall, but if it isn't drawing big crowds yet, it's because it's still tough to get to. The elevator and bridge across Neyland Drive, bedecked with stiff Disneyland pennants still leaves more than half of the steepest slope in downtown Knoxville to climb and, at the moment, there's no parking except for people patronizing Calhoun's and the Star of Knoxville riverboat. But the new Neyland Drive / Third Creek Bike Trail—its final segment completed just last month—leads right to it from Tyson Park or the University Club.
GREENWAYEST CITY IN THE LAND
of the Free?
As the Vols broke all kind of yardage records in '97, Knoxville has added more yardage of greenway in 1997 than in any previous year—and earned the distinction of Greenway City of the Year from a national organization fronted by National Geographic that applauds greenway efforts nationwide. They say we did more with less money than anybody else with a combination of state, federal, and local funding. With new or renovated greenways in South Knoxville, at East Knoxville's Holston River Park, West Hills—and, most conspicuously, the new 2.8-mile bicycle trail along Neyland Drive, Knoxville now has 13.4 miles of greenway, with some of it about to link up with itself. More greenways, along Broadway and First Creek, stretching from Volunteer Landing east, and at other points in West Knoxville, are planned or in the works already. We still have some catching up to do. We may be "most improved," but in acreage, Chattanooga's still way ahead of us.