“The suburbs and city have reversed historic roles. The city now represents order, stability, community, and the human scale. The suburbs have become the example of constant change, gigantism, uncontrolled technological forces, and the rule of the marketplace. Whereas once the city symbolized a merciless, soulless world, and the suburbs calmness, family, and nature...”
—Alex Marshall, How Cities Work
I think Alex Marshall’s onto something. Sure, if you went on last weekend’s City People tour downtown, you may have heard a lot about the advantages of living “in the heart of things,” but the desire to live within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the office also represents a conscious desire to turn the clock back to a simpler time.
That’s been suburbia’s marketing pitch since time immemorial: move to the suburbs to escape the hustle and bustle. Of course, once the masses made the move, they brought the hustle and bustle with them—and the crowds, traffic, and complicated trade-offs that go with them. “Once the city’s grid symbolized impersonality and an ant-like existence in service of Mammon,” observes Marshall, “it is the suburb now that represents impersonal market forces.”
The city’s loss of economic dominance has only furthered the role reversal Marshall describes. I know lots of committed Knoxville urbanites who commute to the suburbs for work. And even those who work closer to home will brave the occasional trip out to the ’burbs for the goods and services downtown doesn’t provide. The list is getting shorter, certainly, thanks to recent arrivals like the Regal Riviera, Mast General Store, and Downtown Wine and Spirits, but Gay Street’s unlikely to ever recapture its old retail dominance. And its lofts serve as a sort of sanctuary precisely because, as Marshall notes of cities, “living in them is more of a choice and less of a requirement.”
Lofts aren’t Knoxville’s only option for city living, however. Much of what constitutes the city’s urban core are actually older suburbs originally sold as refuges from the city’s hubbub.
Consider this brick Tudor near Chilhowee. When it was built in 1940, the real estate agent probably pushed its modern features, not refinished hardwood floors, wood-burning fireplace, and vintage kitchen cabinetry. Likewise, at two miles to Market Square, the place probably sounded practically out in the country for 1940, not conveniently close to downtown. m
2862 Woodbine Ave.
2,066 sq. ft.
4 bdrm/2 bath
Contact: Jennifer Montgomery
Coldwell Banker: 693-1111