Nov 24 2019
05:04 am

It's hard to conceptualize the three design options. Is there a video of the presentation?

I would like to see this and some other public like entities on the south waterfront instead of apartments.

Wow! First look at proposed Knoxville Science Museum

Sandra Clark's picture

Good question. Apparently,

Good question. Apparently, BarberMcMurry had only six weeks to develop seven concepts. The Clayton Family Foundation then selected three to present to the public.

Like much of city government lately, there seems to be an impending vote by city council, and then someone says, "Oops! Need public input." And a show-and-tell meeting is scheduled on the fly.

Don't worry about missing this meeting. It didn't matter.

michael kaplan's picture


When the city, with its ReCode, is talking about increasing density, it seems absurd to be promoting a suburban-style museum so close in to downtown, on a site that, if anything, should probably be used for high-density residential development.

Will this be another Regal Riviera-kind of project that, if it overruns its budget estimate, becomes the subject of a bond issue that enriches its investors? To whom is the land being 'transferred'? Is this the reason the city was in such a hurry to move the police to a site adjacent to a residential neighborhood? Will this turn out to be another Planetarium or Women's Basketball Hall of Fame?

Sandra Clark's picture

Questions best addressed to

Questions best addressed to your favorite member of city council.

barker's picture

A couple of answers

Here's my understanding of the deal.

The land will be transferred to the Clayton Family Foundation, which will be responsible for demolishing the Safety Building and assume all of the risk associated with developing the museum so the taxpayers aren't on the hook for anything.

The city was going to move out of the Safety Building no matter what. The first proposed location was on the back side of the Knoxville College campus, but the college's debt load was an impediment. Then St. Mary's became available, so the city made a deal for that location. The Police Department and Municipal Court won't be moving until the new public safety complex is complete. Barber McMurry's site planning was restricted by the need to keep the Safety Building open for approximately two years before KPD and the court could move. So the museum isn't speeding up the move.

Will the museum succeed or fail? Time will tell.

Hope this helps.

michael kaplan's picture

so the taxpayers aren't on

so the taxpayers aren't on the hook for anything.

... except the loss of a very large parcel of public land contiguous to downtown. I assume the museum will be a non-profit not generating tax revenue. So the only advantage to citizens will be an assumed increase in revenue from tourism and some service and maintenance jobs.

barker's picture


Well, you basically asked if the city taxpayers were at risk (specifically, you wondered about a bond issue) and the answer is no. Once the property is transferred, it's up to the Clayton Family Foundation to make it work. The property isn't on the tax rolls now, so there's not a loss. Should it have been sold to a developer instead? Argue away. I don't have a dog in that fight.

michael kaplan's picture

The city was represented by

The city was represented by Mayor Madeline Rogero’s two deputies – David Brace and Bill Lyons – who have led efforts to secure the project.

Frankly, I'd like to see the city's high-salary unelected officials deal with the Mondays, owners of mostly-empty properties along Chapman Highway that could be repurposed as emergency shelters to get the homeless and vagrant populations off the streets in this cold weather.

bizgrrl's picture

Depending on which

Depending on which properties, it would probably cost a pretty penny to update them for any purpose, but especially overnight housing.

fischbobber's picture


I thought the Monday family was liquidating their properties. What gives?

Treehouse's picture

I wish they would

Chapman Highway is ugly and stalled for improvement because of the Mondays. But we have plenty of homeless and affordable housing is being built. Chapman Highway needs to be cleaned up to invite property owners who care.

Up Goose Creek's picture


From the second article above:

"One resident standing at the podium saying that the council was not listening to the public, and that residents did not want the museum without a stronger agreement that keeps the community in mind.
“We need to make sure the building is actually sustainable, we want to make sure that the jobs that go into working and building it are actually living wage jobs. We want to make sure that the community is actually involved so we’re not just seeing a continuation of the urban renewal and gentrification and seeing more and more working class and black people being pushed out of the area.”"

I'm having a hard time connecting the dots. The housing that is near the site offers subsidized units. The way to keep affordable housing is to lobby the city, HUD, owners, ??? to keep subsidized units. I can't see how a children's museum would encourage gentrification. Especially compared to a mixed use or commercial development. I just don't see families from the 'burbs saying "let's move into a 2 BR apartment so we'll be near this museum". It hasn't happened with the Zoo and nearby Muse museum.

What I can see is children from the subsidized apartments taking advantage of the museum and expanding their horizons. How is this a bad thing?

j.f.m.'s picture

I assume the concern is that

I assume the concern is that the museum (along with other relatively new residential development along Hill Avenue) will make the whole area more attractive, potentially giving the owners of the subsidized housing incentive to redevelop the property for higher-income tenants. The housing is owned by KCDC, who presumably wouldn't be under the same profit-seeking pressures as a private landlord. But public housing authorities have sold off plenty of land in the past, there are hoops they have to go through but it's possible. So it's not a completely ungrounded concern.

Of course, if the Safety Building site were sold to private developers outright, whatever got built (presumably some kind of mixed-use or residential development) could easily have the same kind of impact.

barker's picture


Up Goose Creek, I think you're having a hard time connecting the dots because there is no direct line between them. The word gentrification gets thrown around a lot, but it doesn't really apply here. There is no housing on the museum property, so there is no one to displace.

I've been putting a lot of thought into how the museum could change the dynamics of the immediate area. There is an interesting and varied mix of housing around the site.

Subsidized housing, mostly owned by KCDC and extremely unlikely to change, is just north of the site. Beyond that but still within easy walking distance is Austin Homes, which after a revitalization project will contain a mix of subsidized, workforce and market-rate housing (and many more units than it has currently).

To the east is a market-rate apartment complex, 811 East Downtown Apartments. I don't know how the mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units is divided, but the two-bedroom units are affordable (based on the 30 percent rule-of-thumb for housing) for households making at least the Knox County median of about $52,000 a year. A couple, with or without children, making $30,000 a year each could afford the rent.

To the south between the museum site and the river are luxury condos. I don't know the demographics, but it's likely a lot of the residents are retirees -- grandparents, in other words, whose grandkids probably come to visit.

IF the Clayton people follow through on their publicly stated intentions, children from low-income families would be admitted to the museum for free, and the green space around the museum, including the proposed outdoor exhibits, would be free and open to the public. That would create a park-like setting that could -- I emphasize "could" -- draw youngsters from all three types of housing and be somewhat of a unifying space that could -- again, I emphasize "could" -- actually create an honest-to-god economically and racially diverse neighborhood.

That's a rosy, best-case scenario, of course. The worst-case scenario is that the people living in the three residential sides of the site remain separated, which is the status quo except for the museum bringing in visitors from outside the immediate area (which is supposed to be its bread-and-butter anyway). Most likely, the end result will fall somewhere in between. It all depends on the decisions the Clayton people eventually make about the outdoor space and, possibly, outreach to the neighboring residents.

bizgrrl's picture

The other day I was talking

The other day I was talking with someone from Knoxville that I had never met before and know nothing about. He said East Knoxville is the next target for gentrification. He mentioned all the beautiful homes ready to be fixed up. I didn't pursue the issue.

michael kaplan's picture

From an urban design point of

From an urban design point of view, it seems a shortsighted project. Downtown, already small, is limited in growth by SmartFix (I-40) to the north, World’s Fair Park and Fort Sanders to the west, James White Parkway to the east, and the river to the south. James White could be overcome, and the city grid actually extended eastward by bridging the Parkway. The bus station shows how this could be done. Building a ‘suburban’ museum on a close-in large tract just seems the wrong move. Is anyone from the College of Architecture and Design ever consulted on these large urban projects?

Up Goose Creek's picture


I assume KCDC still owns the towers on Lula Powell drive near Green Elementary. (renamed The 1100 studio) do they own the Vista apartments and the old Townview Terrace as well? Now renamed Pinnacle Park and Arbor Place, what's with all the re-naming?

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