Feb 15 2006
10:11 am

Michael Silence brings our attention to this new City of Knoxville RFP for "a Transportation and Land Use/Urban Design Study for the Cumberland Avenue Corridor." I don't recall hearing any talk about this before, but it sounds like a pretty big deal. And probably long overdue.

Buried among all the talk about creating a more attractive and inviting corridor and improving traffic flow and safety for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, there's this little nugget:

The adopted land use plan for the blocks adjoining Cumberland Ave. (between 17th Street and the railroad underpass) is mixed-use (allowing retail at ground-level and upper story office or residential uses).

To date, all development has been to the alleys (halfway toward White Avenue and halfway toward Lake Avenue). In the future, more intense mixed-use development could absorb entire blocks north and south of Cumberland Avenue, affording higher intensity development and underground or other structured parking.

The City of Knoxville is starting to sound like a one-trick pony. When in doubt, build some condos. Trust us, condos will solve all your problems. (So, when are they going to convert the Convention Center to condos?)

The City reckons this is the fastest and easiest way to stimulate investment in these areas and the best way to generate funding for the projects (TIF-for-tat and all that). And that may be. And the trendy loft set, having drunk the "new urbanist" kool-aid, are active and vocal participants in "the process" supporting this type of development. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

At any rate, a Cumberland Ave. makeover is probably long overdue. Whatever it takes, by any means necessary, and so forth. Just as an uninformed observation from the sidelines, though, Cumberland Ave. probably had its heyday back when the drinking age was lowered to 18, and went into decline when it was raised back to 21.

(This was back when somebody figured out if that if we were going to draft kids, er, young adults, and send them off to Vietnam to get shot up or killed, we ought to at least let them have a couple of cold beers before they shipped out. Of course, it was repealed once they figured out that the Boone's Farm and Ripple wine drinking hippie peacenik contingent also benefited. But I digress.)

The fundamental economic equation at work on Cumberland Ave. seems to be that college students don't have any money. At least not for anything but beer, and an occasional pizza. So it will be interesting to see what kind of plan they come up with. Whatever it is, it will probably have lots of condos. And a bike trail. And a "museum/discovery center." Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And the "transportation" elements of the project guarantee some Free Federal Funding™ courtesy of Congressman Jimmy Duncan (who sits on the Transportation Committee), assuming he can keep going back to the well after the funding he already secured for the downtown luxury bus station.

OK, then.


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