editorial (2005-43)

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Vision for South Knoxville

Unlimited potential, unmatched public involvement and scope

Vision for South Knoxville

The City of Knoxville began an unprecedented public participation process this week to come up with the most comprehensive and acceptable plan to redevelop the South Knoxville Waterfront and its environs. The redevelopment will certainly not get underway too soon, but every Knoxvillian should eagerly await the result.

The magnitude of the proposed project is impressive. It would probably be the most ambitious undertaking in the city’s history. Hundreds of acres of land and tens of millions of dollars may ultimately be involved. But it’s taking the opinions of the people who live and work there that makes the idea all the more exciting.

A total of three public workshops and eight or more meetings, open to the public, of the South Waterfront Oversight Committee, are expected between now and mid-June 2006, to create what’s called a “Vision and Action Plan” for the area, long neglected in the city’s economic picture.

The broad initiative of former Mayor Victor Ashe and the enthusiastic follow-through by Mayor Bill Haslam, both of whom have enjoyed the backing of City Council, practically ensures that some dramatic revitalization is in the offingon the Tennessee River’s south bank. The promise is there to create a virtual showcase of South Knoxville’s overlooked geographical attributes. The city, with state and federal help as available, stands ready to provide the infrastructure improvements that will be necessary to underpin that showcase.

Cognizant of the need to expand the city’s tax base as well as improve the visual appeal of the south bank of the river, the city fathers have lined up a strong consultant team, Hargreaves Associates of Cambridge, Mass., to shepherd the workshops and lead the public process.

“I encourage everyone interested in…this framework for future development and investment in the South Waterfront to participate in this process,” Haslam says, and we second his sentiment. The breadth of opportunity afforded the public in this instance to provide guidance in shaping the commercial, residential and recreational outlook for the whole neighborhood is unique in Knoxville’s history.

“The South Waterfront holds the potential to be a great community asset, and it’s important that the community be involved in determining how to best develop that asset,” Haslam says. He says the workshops will focus on setting goals for the project, exploring alternatives, generating options, and eventually creating the vision plan and the actions needed to accomplish that plan.

There are so many possibilities to explore, including the vista along the waterline itself and the underused areas that extend beyond it. There is the consultant’s recommendation that the corridor along Blount and Sevier Avenues be dressed up for eventual redevelopment. There are the underutilized parklands, such as Fort Dickerson Park, which could be transformed into a jewel atop its hill, with its commanding view of the downtown and the University of Tennessee. There are bluffs and abandoned quarries that contribute to the lush landscape that is largely unseen or unappreciated from north of the river. There is Ijams Nature Center, already a gem, but with its access and visibility limited by the narrow, winding streets and roads that lead visitors there.

Altogether, in spite of the limitations set in place mostly by early development and the lack of planning that went into it, South Knoxville’s prospects have never been better. For a change, the eyes of the city are squarely upon that pleasant, formerly ignored neighborhood, and there can be little doubt that the proposals for a well-considered, artfully measured approach, taking a broad look at public sentiment and individual concepts, will produce a result desirable to the neighborhood and the city at large.

Development by residential or commercial enterprises that takes advantage of and blends in with all of that natural beauty could create an image for South Knoxville that would be the envy of other cities around the state and region.

We can hardly wait to see the plan that emerges and to watch it be put to use.

Clip and save the following schedule, and be sure to be there if you wish your own ideas heard by the city and the consultant team.

Public Workshops, each to be held at 6 p.m. at the Kerbela Shriners Temple, 315 Mimosa Ave., above the foot of the Gay Street Bridge:

Oversight Committee Meetings, all at 6 p.m. on their respective dates in the City County Building’s Small Assembly Room:

Metro Pulse publisher Brian Conley and his family own parcels of land that will ultimately be affected by the proposed redevelopment—The Editor.

© 2005 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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