incoming (2005-49)

What Downtown?

No to Faux

Northshore Town Center Worries

What Downtown?

It is quite sad to see Mr. Eden refer to Knoxville’s populace as one that “still apparently prefer[s] to pretend that downtown doesn’t exist….” I spent my years in college at UT from 1992-95 and lived on campus. At that time, I would often walk downtown and just roam about looking at the old buildings and wondering why the place was so deserted all the time. It seemed like almost all of the buildings would make fantastic places to renovate and live in. Ten years later, I return for Thanksgiving and discover that downtown is, more or less, the same as it was then. In fact, it may have had more charm back then. The Old City was certainly more interesting when I lived here. Mr. Eden’s essential analysis is correct: the people of Knoxville have deserted their downtown and could care less if a wrecking ball destroyed the whole thing and replaced it with a Wal-Mart.

My response to Mr. Eden is simple. Stop looking for a savior to come in and build another pointless office building because it isn’t going to happen. Although it makes me sad to say it, the “outside” world simply is not interested in Knoxville, Tenn. Even Nashville barely recognizes Knoxville. Make the people of Knoxville realize that their downtown is a treasure waiting to be discovered and reclaimed as their own. Only then will the world come and bring further growth.

Look at the vast amounts of money fueled into the sprawling suburbs of Knoxville. If even a small percentage of that money was instead spent on downtown renovations you could imagine the results. The money and the means to change downtown Knoxville once and for all is right here right now. Incidentally, the proposed downtown movie theater is a great example of something that will drive more people downtown and encourage further spending in the form of dinners and drinks at surrounding establishments. That movie theater is an absolute must in moving things forward.

The best thing Knoxville could do is look at what Denver did with its downtown and emulate that success as much as possible. This is, of course, a complex mix of government and private partnership. Denver’s downtown contained the lower downtown “LoDo” district, which was nothing more than a bunch of old run-down warehouses ten years ago. In the span of a decade, Denver managed to turn a massive blighted area into a thriving area of bars, restaurants, clubs, lofts, and entertainment. That success was not accomplished through those foreign to Denver, but rather through those who loved Denver and wanted to reclaim their downtown district. Today, downtown Denver is all about building things that bring people in for fun: food, drinks, dancing, opera, symphony, concerts, baseball, basketball, hockey, football. You name it, they got it. Large buildings currently under construction are all condominium towers, not office buildings.

As I walked around Market Square for lunch today, I thought to myself how magical the feel of the place was at times. Gay Street could become an utterly amazing area one day. The only way to truly do this is to challenge the people of Knoxville. Move into downtown. Do something different for once in your life. For all you Knoxville developers funneling money into suburban sprawl for another buck, remember, life isn’t just about money. If downtown does take off, think of the return on your early investment. Even if you think there is some risk, do something for your city for once other than another pointless strip mall in Farragut. And if you do, congratulations on doing the same damn thing that you’ve always done and everybody else does. Do something you can cherish and remember in your later years, and something we can all love you for as well.

Todd Wells


No to Faux

Laura Mullaney


Northshore Town Center Worries

Adam Whipple


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