Feb 3 2006
10:55 am

SKB, circa 2002: Development of the South Side of the River into a top-notch residential/leisure area from the Baptist Hospital down to Island Home with upscale condos, nice but affordable apartments, some single family housing development and continuing renovation of Island Home, all tied together via river walk style parks and anchored by a small dining/entertainment complex would be an outstanding proposition. It could be the Jewel of the South. This could tie in to downtown with trolleys and a pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the river to the downtown river front development.

That's pretty much the vision presented at last night's public meeting on the South Waterfront Vision and Action Plan. Except significantly bigger and far more ambitious. There is much to digest and a few debatable ideas, but overall the Mrs. and I give it two thumbs up.

My full (and way too long) report is after the jump. Click "read more"...

The South Waterfront task force is led by Dave Hill, the city's Chief Operating Officer, and facilitated by consultants from Hargreaves Associates of Cambridge MA along with other consultants from various disciplines, and includes other city officials and an oversight committee made up of neighborhood residents and other stakeholders. The task force began work last November to develop a "vision and action plan" as the first phase of the project.

Through a series of public workshops and committee meetings, the consultants developed an overall concept which was presented at last night's public workshop. The results were impressive and reflect all of the hard work and public participation that went into developing the concept.

In considering the ideas presented, it is important to keep in mind that this is a preliminary "vision". Over the next few months, the task force will proceed with a more in-depth study of funding, zoning requirements, and infrastructure improvements. My impression was that the plan could change significantly once more is known about the realities of what it will cost, who will pay for it, and what impact it will have on individual stakeholders.

The concept presented last night focuses on changes in basic infrastructure that must be in place before development can proceed. This includes road, street, and utility improvements, and a realignment of several access "corridors" in the neighborhood. Rikki's previous post is a good summary of the infrastructure improvements.

The property developments include an expansive array of residential condos, office, parking, retail, and dining/entertainment structures, parks and public spaces and other public amenities interconnected by pedestrian walkways, bridges, and a river walk, and several proposed waterfront features including up to three marinas. As I said, it's pretty impressive, and would be an incredible makeover of the South Knoxville riverfront and a tremendous asset to Knoxville and East Tennessee.

Instead of recapping all the details, I'll refer to the city's website for a copy of the presentation from last night (PDF format) that you can study at your leisure. The city's website also has an impressive simulated "flyover" (Windows media format) of the proposed development.

Following are some notes and observations from last night's workshop, and some snippets of conversation that give a sense of public reaction to the plan.

At the open house reception before the meeting:

  • On viewing the development area map: I was pleased to see that very few existing homes will be affected. Those folks in the Phillips St. neighborhood, however, are going to be surrounded. Which could be a good thing with regard to property values. But, I wonder if going forward they will experience higher property taxes, or feel more pressure to update or sell, and that the neighborhood will eventually become "re-gentrified" and less affordable, displacing some of the middle-class working people living there now.
  • People studying the maps and models seemed a little overwhelmed by the scope of the proposed development. "Ambitious" was a frequently heard remark. "Pie in the sky" was another (to which one wag responded "only if we let it be!").
  • An Island Home resident who moved there from West Knoxville for a quieter, more "laid-back" lifestyle was enthusiastic about the plan, but expressed concerns about it being so large and busy that it would change the character of the neighborhood.
  • One fellow looking at the big map wondered aloud "Where's the Cas Walker store?" A nearby consultant came over to try to address the question. The local jokester asks again, "Where are they going to put the Cas Walker store?" The consultant became confused, and started saying something about schools. The Mrs. interjected. "No, you know, the Cas Walker grocery store. You know who Cas Walker is, right?" The consultant became even more perplexed. The Mrs. said "You aren't from around here, are you?" Heh.
  • Many attendees were locating their property on the maps to see how the development would affect them. The two most frequently expressed concerns were a) would their property be taken, and b) how would it affect their property values. The general consensus was that the project will have a positive effect on property values in and around the development.
  • It was nice to finally meet "Gemini" in person. We also ran in to Martha Olson, who recently moved to the Blount Ave./Scottish Pike neighborhood. She was really excited about the proposed developments over there (she asked if we'd picked out our property yet), but also a little concerned about the proposed four-lane thoroughfare that would run practically through her back yard. (Ed. note: Please, not another JWP!)
  • We ran in to Bill Lyons, the city's Director of Policy Development, and he introduced us to Amy Nolan, Communications Coordinator with the mayor's office of Communications and Government Relations. We also spoke briefly with Ann Coulter, former candidate for mayor of Chattanooga and now part of the consulting team representing Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing and Watson of Chattanooga.
  • I asked Bill Lyons if moving the asphalt and the Holston Gas tank farms was a done deal. He said they are still negotiating and that the owners were receptive as long as they can be made whole. He said they are still discussing what "made whole" means.
  • I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the petroleum tank farm on Island Home near the gates has already been removed and that the land is now up for sale. This apparently happened sometime around last November. Obviously we haven't been over there in a while.

  • The presentation:

  • Mayor Bill Haslam opened the meeting by thanking everyone for their participation. It was a standing room only crowd, which we estimated at 300 or more. Someone at the sign-in desk said more than 240 people had registered, but many more went in without registering. I was surprised by the large turnout. There was a wide cross-section of demographics and interests, including many South Knox residents as one would expect.
  • The mayor said that the city's goal for this first phase of the project was a transparent process and a doable plan. He said the city wanted a plan "driven by the market and helped by the city."
  • The mayor noted that this was not just a South Knoxville project, but a City of Knoxville project that would benefit everyone. He recognized City Council members in attendance from all over, including Joe Hultquist, Bob Becker, Marylin Roddy, Steve Hall, and Barbara Pelot. Former mayor Randy Tyree was also there.
  • Gavin McMillan from lead consultants Hargreaves and Associates, and David Gamble of Chan Krieger & Associates gave the presentation. They went section by section through the three-mile waterfront development area from west/downriver to east/upriver explaining the concepts, the proposed types of development, and the infrastructure improvements that would be needed.
  • McMillan said their goal was to design a plan in keeping with South Knoxville's character, which he called a "maverick place" with a small town, main street appeal. He acknowledged the tremendous public input and feedback that went into the conceptual plan.
  • The development is focused along the river and incorporates the character and flow of the river itself. Public access, open views, parks, plazas, greens, and public spaces were all important considerations. There were frequent mentions of converting some existing rail lines for light-rail use. (Presumably, this is part of the 20 year plan, because I don't see that happening any time soon. Unless Congressman Jimmy Duncan can shake loose some massive federal transportation funding. Heh.)
  • There was much discussion about sightlines, particularly from the Phillips Street neighborhood, and concerns that condos and office structures along the river would obstruct their views. The plan recommends structures of no more than three or four stories to address this concern, and I believe the use of underground parking basements was mentioned as one way to help achieve this.
  • There was discussion about two possible pedestrian bridges. If I understood correctly, only one would be in the final plan. One would connect the Scottish Pike/Blount Ave. area to the U.T. campus area. The other would be closer to the Gay Street bridge and connect downtown to a proposed amphitheater/floating stage and retail/entertainment "wharf" style complex on the east/upriver side of the development. The latter seems to make more sense and would benefit more people.
  • The plan is laid out in zero to five year, zero to ten year, and zero to twenty year phases. McMillan said the reason for the "zero to" designation is that they want any developer to feel free to jump in at any time on any part of the project and not be constrained by waiting on some future phase to begin.
  • The first "zero to five year" phase would start with overall infrastructure improvements (which include fixing the Blount Ave. underpass and building a thru-way connecting Chapman Highway/Ford Dickerson to Cherokee Trail and Vestal).

    Development would begin on the west/downriver end and on the furthermost east/upriver end of the three-mile development area. Presumably this is because there is already projects underway on Scottish Pike an at the Glove Factory on Blount Ave., and there is readily available vacant or underutilized land on the east end.

    If I understand the maps correctly, the area behind Phillips Street (where the asphalt and old National Molasses tank farms are located) that is designated for high density residential/condo development is for some reason not included in either the zero to five or zero to ten year plan. Maybe it involves uncertainty about relocating the asphalt tank farm. (The molasses tanks are long abandoned and could presumably be demolished at any time.)
  • The presentation concluded with the "flyover" video. McMillan noted that the JFG sign was still there and prominently featured in the video. This brought a few appreciative chuckles. (I can just imagine the workshop session where this came up. Local: What about the JFG sign? Consultant: What's a JFG sign? Local: You aren't from around here, are you?)
  • Question and answer after the presentation:

  • Question: How close will the final plan be to the vision presented here tonight. Answer: The next study phase will determine what is feasible and what form the final master plan will take. The task force will recommend throwing out existing zoning or proposing new zoning or even new types of zoning to enable the types of development proposed.
  • Q: Regarding the marinas and increased boat traffic and how it will affect rowers, and will there be bike paths. A: Yes, bike paths are included in the plan. Regarding the marinas, the planned design "corrals" the marinas to minimize impact. It would be up to the city if they want to declare a no-wake zone. (Except for a no-wake zone, which the city should impose in my opinion, this answer doesn't make much sense. Do they expect the boats to stay docked all the time and never go anywhere?)

    This issue came up several times with regard to wake, increased boat traffic, speeding boaters, ecological impact, and even marinas obstructing navigation on crowded parts of the river. From the answers given, it doesn't appear these issues were given as much thought as maybe needed. One of the consultants said there had not been any specific study of these issues. I'm sure it will be addressed as plans move forward. Presumably, the marinas are needed to attract upscale buyers for the high-dollar condos that will no doubt be built along the river, and that makes perfect sense.
  • Q: What about funding for the project. A: They will be crunching numbers for the next month and a half, and will have a better picture of the project cost and funding sources. They expect federal, state, and local funding, but residential development will ultimately drive the project.
  • Q: What about event parking near the river. A: The surface parking in the initial plan is more for in-and-out use such as shopping or park visitors. Event parking could be a problem. A suggested solution is to establish shared parking arrangements with the hospital and other proposed office/medical buildings.
  • Q: How does the plan integrate with the areas upriver near Ijams Park, the airport, Island Home, etc. A: They are cognizant of those areas as reflected in the fact there is less and less development past the JWP/South Knox bridge to facilitate a transition from new development to what is already there. (None of the proposed development extends upriver past the Island Home gates.)
  • Q: Martha Olson expressed concern that the proposed four-lane road through the Blount/Augusta/Poplar Ave. area is way out of scale with the other plans for the neighborhood such as parks and pedestrian/bike trails, and that it would impact the "laid-back" feel of the neighborhood. A: The road is designed as "arterial" to reduce pressure on Blount Ave.
  • Q: There was a question from the property owner about the road and street improvements intersecting his six acre parcel near the Glove Factory, that it would divide his property. I didn't get the answer to this.
  • Q: What about homes and churches in the way of development. A: There are no plans to condemn any homes or churches in the area.
  • Q: What about expanding the project area to the west to the wooded bluffs that are in danger of being clear cut? A: (Dave Hill) The scope of the project is designed to be manageable.
  • Q: Concern that this is the last public meeting on this part of the plan, so how can the public stay involved and provide input and feedback on the next steps of refining the concept and studying the costs, etc. The resident is concerned about what the buildings will look like, what will he be looking at from his backyard, etc., and doesn't feel like he has had much say in that and wants to make sure he can stay informed and voice his concerns going forward.

    A: The web site will stay open and continue to accept e-mails. A public City Council process will implement "form based zoning" for the project to shape the character of development. Developer's proposals will show details, and neighborhood residents and stakeholders will have the opportunity to be involved and respond. The city is establishing "drop-in" centers where the public can view maps and proposals, ask questions, and provide feedback at any time during normal business hours.
  • Q: How does the design address the natural areas above and below the development, and maintaining the natural look and feel of South Knoxville, and protecting wildlife habitat in and around the river, and maintaining East Tennessee's "sense of naturalness". A: This is a draft proposal to create areas that are public versus developed. All of this is preliminary and the person's concerns would be considered as the project goes forward.
  • Q: What about security on the river walk. Maybe it shouldn't connect all the development areas. A: That was not the intent of the design, to leave these areas disconnected. The river walk/promenade was an important need expressed during the workshops, and the design reflects the input from the people who showed up for the meetings.
  • Q: Could we please not name streets after sports figures or corporations? We need respectful, meaningful names that retain a sense of place, not a bunch of names with "e" tacked on the end like Pointe. (Light applause). A: There is a City Council street naming committee that deals with this and any concerns should be directed there.
  • Q: On widening Sevier Ave., there are some structures on the south side situated right on the street and that are designated historical. What about those? A: Widening will occur on the north side with minimum taking of right of way and those structures won't be affected.
  • Q: Regarding the website and e-mails, you can submit comments and send e-mails, but you can't see what others are saying. There's no discussion. Maybe it should be more like an open forum. This person lives on Philips and will be surrounded by new buildings and cannot get a sense of the scale or size or of the buildings being proposed. A: The intent of the design is to protect views.
  • There were probably a few more minutes of Q&A but we had to go.

    OK, then.

    Rachel's picture

    With respect to public

    With respect to public participation on this project:

    It's true that this is the last big public meeting. It's also true that there is opportunity to comment on the website.

    But there's more:

    The Oversight Committee will continue to meet montly till the project is complete (approximately June). All Oversight Committee meetings are open to the public. Also, you can contact any Oversight Committee members - including me - directly with comments/concerns and we will be sure they are addressed. Oversight Committee members are listed on the website, and included 7 south Knoxville residents (Connie Beeler, Martha Olson, me, Madeline Rogero, Rob Dansereau, John Thomas, and Jenny Arthur), as well as other stakeholders and City officials like Bill Lyons and Dave Hill.

    I need to check the schedule to make sure exactly how many are scheduled, but there will also be several City Council workshops on the plan (for example, I believe there is one of the vision plan, one on the action plan, maybe one just on regulatory changes). These are also open to the public and will include time for public input. And of course, all this stuff will have to be approved by Council - additional opportunity for input.

    So in no way is there intent to shut the general public out of the rest of the effort; there's just a feeling that no more large meeting are necessary.

    bizgrrl's picture

    With so many condos proposed

    With so many condos proposed I do not see a "small town, main street appeal".


    Pedestrian bridge "closer to the Gay Street bridge and connect downtown". "seems to make more sense and would benefit more people".



    "throwing out existing zoning or proposing new zoning or even new types of zoning to enable the types of development proposed"



    "Do they expect the boats to stay docked all the time and never go anywhere? This issue came up several times with regard to wake, increased boat traffic, speeding boaters, ecological impact, and even marinas obstructing navigation on crowded parts of the river. From the answers given, it doesn't appear these issues were given as much thought as maybe needed."

    Their answers were almost silly.

    Rachel's picture

    Umm, the condos are going to

    Umm, the condos are going to be in 3-4 story buildings, some mixed use (retail, etc. on ground floor). I don't see that as being at all incompatible with a "main street" feel.

    As for changing the zoning, I'll write more about this later. But the idea is to go to zoning based more on look, feel, and impact than on use (i.e. commercial vs. residential). This allows for mixed use projects like what I mentioned above.

    edens's picture

    "throwing out existing

    "throwing out existing zoning or proposing new zoning or even new types of zoning to enable the types of development proposed"

    Yeah, I suspect Gemini is better able to explain this than I am, since she's more privy to the details, but keeping the existing zoning, or facilitating building condos, retail, offices, etc. by simply changing the zoning to current appropriate designations on the books for such development(R-2, C-3, O-2, whatever) is probably the surefire stategy to ensure that south Knoxville becomes Kingston Pike by the river.

    The majority of Knoxville's existing zoning ordinances, with all the assorted requirements for setback, maximum lot coverage, minimum parking are pretty much Turkey Creek in a can.

    Right now we're jazzed by what this plan could mean for South Knoxville, but the successful application and use of form-based zoning in Knoxville may, in the long run, be the plan's biggest benefit to the city as a whole.

    Rachel's picture

    Right now we're jazzed by

    Right now we're jazzed by what this plan could mean for South Knoxville, but the successful application and use of form-based zoning in Knoxville may, in the long run, be the plan's biggest benefit to the city as a whole.

    Somebody asked about this at the Oversight Committee meeting - that is, can these new zoning ordinances be generalized to the entire city? The consultants were careful to stress that the details of what works for the south waterfront might not be exactly right for the rest of town. But as Edens says, the concept would work, and a successful application of it in south Knoxville is more likely to get MPC and the Mayor behind a broader application.

    edens's picture

    "the onus of paucity" They

    "the onus of paucity" They teach you to write like that in Grad School, don't they? I wasn't speaking of the planning or lack of planning with regard to how a piece of property was changed from any of Knoxville's A, C, R or O zones but the actual content of the regs themselves. For instance, R-3 High Density residential requires a minimum front yard setback of 25 feet, a maximum lot coverage of 30% and "Retail business may be conducted, in multiple-family buildings only, for theconvenience of the occupants of the building, provided there shall be no entrance to such place of business except from the inside of the building." Beyond the relatively new TC-1 and TND-1 districts (both of which have minimum acreage requirelments that may be problematic along the south waterfront) I'm pretty sure that the only zoning designation on Knoxville's books that allows mixed use, zero lot-line buildings is the C-2 Central Business District - a designation that would, undoubtably, make folks on Phillips Avenue a little nervous.
    edens's picture

    Usage? Nah, just wondering

    Usage? Nah, just wondering if you thought there was extra credit for magniloquence. But I think you are still missing my point. Strictly from a usage point of view the plan could call for a "neighborhood market/deli" rather than a car dealership and our hypothetical developers, being everything we could wish for in non good old boy type developers, decide to build what the plan calls for - a neighborhood market/deli. Now under Knoxville's conventional use-based zoning ordinance the best fit for that use, the one ostensibly designed for it, would be the C-1 Neighborhood Commercial District. But the C-1 still requires a 25 foot front setback, 20 feet on the sides where adjoining R zoned areas, and a 30' "rear yard, alley, service court, or combination thereof" (all service areas shall be completely screened from public view with plant materials or fencing). Oh and a maximum lot coverage of 35% and around a dozen offstreet parking spaces (and that's not even getting into the parking setback requirements). So congratulations, you set out to build a neighborhood deli and wound up with a 7-11...
    edens's picture

    Well, variances are

    Well, variances are possible, but that puts the, uh...onus on the developer to try and do the right thing, which can be time consuming, add expense and has no guarantee of success. Suburban sprawl is the default setting - which is hardly unique to Knoxville's zoning code. And it isn't so much a matter of the language of the code as written as the basic premises of conventional, use-based zoning. Which is why the SoKno plan's experiment with form-based zoning is potentially so important.
    Rachel's picture

    I was very pleased to see

    I was very pleased to see that very few existing homes will be affected. Those folks in the Phillips St. neighborhood, however, are going to be surrounded. Which could be a good thing with regard to property values. But, I wonder if going forward they will experience higher property taxes, or feel more pressure to update or sell, and that the neighborhood will eventually become "re-gentrified" and less affordable thus displacing some of the middle-class working people living there now.

    The "surrounding" of the Phillips Avenue area with new development was kind of inevitable, given its location. And the chances are good that such new development will put pressure on the neighborhood to gentrify. This is always a quandry - you want to maintain diversity in the population, but how do you tell somebody whose property values have increased that they can't make a profit by selling their house?

    In fact, in 20 years or so, if the plan is successful, such pressure may well spread across Sevier and also into the Scottish Pike neighborhood.

    However, any decisions to sell, move, etc. will be made by the individuals involved, taking into account their financial situations and emotional attachments to the neighborhood. They won't be forced by government taking the property.

    And the design standards that are planned will ensure that new housing or modifications to existing housing will fit with the character and scale of the existing neighborhoods.

    One extra layer of protection that the Phillips folks can give themselves is to apply for an H-1 overlay for their neighborhood, something I think they should do anyway.

    mccollum's picture

    H-1 overlay

    What is an H-1 overlay and how do you get it?


    Mykhailo's picture

    I didn't get to the meeting

    I didn't get to the meeting till 6:30, so I missed everything downstream of Henley St. A few questions and comments:

    1. What's the proposed use, and overall vision, for the quarry/Ft. Dickerson area? There's a couple of new buildings, one at the top and one down near Goose Creek. What are they? Also, I think I heard that the little short curved waterway is supposed to represent an artificial whitewater course -- correct? What sort of connection will there be between the quarry area and the river? And what are the little zig-zags on the map in Goose Creek? I'm guesing they are new wetlands, and are an attempt to improve water quality in the creek before it drains into the river.

    2. Was there any reason given for the siting of the pedestrian bridge at the UT steamplant? I haven't given a whole lot of thought into this, so maybe it's justifiable, but my initial reaction is that this is just stupid. That location wouldn't serve anyone but UT students (and, more importantly, the adminstration's goal of making that some sort of grand entrance to the campus). If UT wants to build it itself, that's fine, but if the city is going to shell out a lot of money on it, then it should be either around Gay Street (as in the video), or at Henley Street, which would provide far better access to the main riverside public use components. I heard some talk about tacking on a pedestrian walkway to the side of the railroad bridge, which seems like a decent idea if feasible, or maybe a walkway could be constructed under it or the Henley St. bridge, as was done in Richmond to provide access to an island downtown:

    (large photo)

     3. The conspiracy theory I heard regarding the big-ass Blount Ave and the new underpass was that they are designed to facilitate massive development in the Cherokee Trail area. I'm not entirely convinced of that, but those two improvements don't seem to provide all that much benefit to the actual project area, so maybe there's something to it.

    [edit: Oh, but other than a few quibbles, I was extremely impressed by this plan, and by the whole process of its development. The devil's in the details, but I'm far more optimistic than I was 6 months ago.]

    Rachel's picture

    1) Most of your reading of

    1) Most of your reading of the map is correct. There is to be a new entrance into the quarry area from the proposed new connector from Cherokee Trail. The zigzags on Goose Creek are indeed a proposed wetlands "cleansing area." And yes on the whitewater course, although I'm not sure I buy it.

    2) A couple of us on the Oversight Committee spent 15 minutes having this same discussion with Gavin on Wednesday evening. The result was that the presentation changed from Wednesday's "pedestrian bridge at the steam plant" to Thursday's "pedestrian bridge at the steamplant OR at the mouth of Second Creek." Please make sure your comments get added to what we've already said.

    3) I think this is a real "conspiracy theory." I don't buy it. I think the consultants are just trying to design a better traffic flow system for the area w/o building a bunch of big ass roads. And for the most part, they are suceeding.

    mccollum's picture

    900 block of Phillips

    bizgrrl's picture

    I see 17 new "residential

    I see 17 new "residential condo" buildings (4 or 5 floors, 2 with 3 floors at the East end) in approximately 1 1/2 to 2 miles of area within 2 blocks of the river front (from the Gay Street bridge to the "new" South Knoxville bridge. The report shows 1,190,000 sq ft. for residential condos. It could be calculated to result in around 600 new condos in this space (avg. 1,500 sq ft per plus common space).  It appears the residential condo vision encompasses an estimated 25 acres with an average of 24 condos per acre.

    Oh, and I still do not see the "small town" part of the appeal.

    Rachel's picture

    I will take your #s as fact,

    I will take your #s as fact, altho I haven't checked them. But you're only looking at one part of the plan. What you are missing is that all the existing single family neighborhoods remain. And Sevier Avenue is planned to return to the neighborhood commercial it once was. That will feel "small town," or at least urban with a south Knoxville flavor. But in order to get to that commercial, you gotta have more people to serve. That means more density. That means condos. Not only that, but frankly, that's where the market is.
    Jacki Arthur's picture


    But in order to get to that commercial, you gotta have more people to serve. That means more density. That means condos.

    As Gemini notes, there is an existing single family neighborhood and the viewshed of those residents needs to be preserved. This means limiting the heights of those massive condos to a size that does not interfere with Phillips Avenue's view of the River. 

    By "gotta have more people to serve", do you mean more people with more disposable income? (because there are plenty of plain ol' people already).  When you say condos are where the market is, what market are you referring to? I cannot imagine the needs of condo-dwellers matching up with the needs of most of the existing residents. What will "neighborhood commercial" look like with this blend? 

    I am a homeowner in Old Sevier, the neighborhood being discussed. I am a bike-riding, park visiting, river gazing, stay-out-late-at-night entertainment seeker so I am really pleased with most of the plan, but I am also concerned about the artificial changes to the tone of the neighborhood. Most of my neighbors are seriously impoverished.  I think the plan improves Knoxville but not necessarily the neighborhood or the lot of those living here. I foresee wealth by the river and poverty in the hills. Some similar developments in other cities have included amenities to make sure it is not just a place for retirees and young urban professionals.  What is being done to ensure that families have a place in all this?  For example, how is the impact on South Knoxville Elementary School being addressed?

    Maybe it won't really matter in the long run, all ships will be lifted and so on.

    Rachel's picture

    Hi Jacki, Heading for bed

    Hi Jacki,

    Heading for bed and so don't have time to respond to all of this, although I do share many of your concerns. I do want to say that I think more emphasis should be placed on improving South Knoxville Elementary. There aren't many neighborhood schools left, and we're lucky to have one in Old Sevier. A good neighborhood school should help attract families with children. Unfortunately, like most Knoxville inner-city schools, South Elementary isn't known as a "good" school. That needs to change.

    John Thomas brought this up at the Oversight Committee meeting, but it kind of got lost in the discussion. I will bring it up again, and I hope others will comment on it as well. It seems to me that one of the best contributions Knox County government could make to entire effort is to put some emphasis, effort, and $$ into South Elementary.

    BTW, I agree completely about the Phillips viewshed. I've suggested here and elsewhere that one way to address that is to write heighth restrictions into the design standards, which will be developed later this spring.

    rikki's picture

    king condo

    The issue of how to blend upscale housing with the existing neighborhoods is a tough one, and it harks back to RNeal's question about how the neighborhood used to support more retail than it does now. Retail has gotten more concentrated and automobile-oriented in the intervening decades, and employment has become more dispersed and automobile-oriented.

    How many of the people in the existing neighborhoods are employed at Holston Gases and other businesses that are relocating? Will the new retail provide jobs for local residents? Will there be any incentives for employers and developers to hire residents? If the only benefit they get from the redevelopment is higher value for their homes, selling those homes might be the only way to realize the gain, particularly if property tax increases pressure fixed incomes.

    The displacement of industry is one of the more striking features of the redevelopment plan. I think everyone is happy to move the gas tanks to a more hidden location, but what do these dislocations mean in terms of jobs for residents? Redevelopment brings construction and retail jobs, but I'm not sure how much direct value that brings to residents. What can be done to translate the investment in the waterfront into financial gain for people living there?

    bizgrrl's picture

    There are approximately 50

    There are approximately 50 houses (about 4 blocks) that will be surrounded by these 4-5 story condo buildings on all sides except the South (Sevier Avenue) side. The proposal shows very little retail actually on Sevier Avenue. The proposal shows "new" retail primarily on the side streets and the waterfront.

    I doubt there are 600 condos in downtown Knoxville, excluding UT area of course since they have their own retail. I would almost bet there are less than 300 condos in downtown Knoxville. Will this development reduce the demand for condos downtown? As what happens in many areas, when something new is built the old is left to decay.

    Also, based on what has been experienced in downtown Knoxville, it does not appear to me that condos attract retail (bars and restaurants perhaps). Are you sure condos are where the market is? Is there a market research study available? As you probably know, single-family housing sells great in South Knoxville as well.

    Do you know if they will be trying to attract full-time owner-occupied residents or will they be trying to attract investors and parents of UT students?

    Rachel's picture

    There are questions here I

    There are questions here I can't answer yet, but let me point out that the entire study area extends to the top of the ridge and to the end of Scottish Pike. Therefore, you are leaving all the single family residential on the south side of Seiver out of your equation, as well as all the single-family housing west of Chapman Highway (which admittedly won't affect demand for neighborhood commercial on Sevier, but is part of the overall waterfront).

    Also, you're leaving out the 200+ houses in Island Home Park that are just outside the study area, as well as all the single-family residential in South Haven. In short, south Knoxville close to the waterfront already has plenty of single-family, reasonably priced residential. What we don't have is higher-priced, higher-density. That's what the plan gives us.

    And actually, the proposal shows a lot of commercial on Seiver, primarily lining the south side. You must be misreading it.

    If you have detailed questions about that, or about market studies, you need to send them to the consultants. I'm not ducking the questions here. But I seem unable to satisfy your concerns with what I know, and the consultants can give you more in-depth answers. If you don't want to use the form-based input on the website, I can give you some email addresses. Contact me offline.

    rikki's picture

    I think you're counting

    I think you're counting condos before they hatch. We're at the conceptual stage, and the mayor said the development will be market-driven. Building those condos is not an explicit part of the first phase, and when and how many actually get built is more a matter of investors coming along who believe they can turn a profit (with an incentive or three). There is still plenty of time for citizens to define zoning restrictions and constraints too.
    bizgrrl's picture

    I will be composing my

    I will be composing my letter to the committe, mayor, project leader, consultants, etc. Yes, I am leaving out the houses in Island Home Park, they will not be surrounded by condos. I am also leaving out South Haven. I would suspect that those people coming to move TO the new South Knox development, or to visit, will not have much interaction with those areas, may not even know they are there.

    I may be counting the condos before they hatch, but condos is what they are selling. I did not hear much flexibility at the meeting, except for not knowing what will happen, how it will be paid for, and when it will happen.

    In my letter to those folks, I will also make suggestions. Such as, wouldn't it be nice if there were more single-family homes (could even be zero lot line) in the area between Phillips and the proposed park and river (or evan an expanded area), instead of condos? A little community like Island Home or Fourth & Gill. Do you think that type of zoning would be accepted for that area? Do you think the existing developers/investors that own some of this property are open to uses other than condos?


    Rachel's picture

    wouldn't it be nice if there

    wouldn't it be nice if there were more single-family homes (could even be zero lot line) in the area between Phillips and the proposed park and river (or evan an expanded area), instead of condos?

    It might be "nice." But in my opinion, and as I've said before, the area close to the south waterfront already has enough single-family, reasonably priced residential. You can't just leave IHP, South Haven, and most of Old Sevier out of that equation and focus solely on the Phillips area.

    If we didn't already have a bunchof this kind of residential, I'd join you in asking for more. And we definitely need to protect what we have.

     What we don't have is higher-priced, higher-density areas (or condos, period, for that matter, except for the new ones at the end of Scottish Pike). We need that to generate demand for neighborhood commercial. And to generate more tax revenue to fund the public improvements we want. And to satisfy the demands of the market. And frankly, if we want developers to include public access to the river, abide by good design standards, etc., we need to make it easy for them to make a profit by building quality.

    That means that new residential development in this area should primarily be condos.

    bizgrrl's picture

    Well, I suppose I have a

    Well, I suppose I have a little different position on condo presence in urban Knoxville. As I said before, "based on what has been experienced in downtown Knoxville, it does not appear to me that condos attract retail (bars and restaurants perhaps)."

    rikki said:
    "I think you're counting condos before they hatch."

    Apparently in some peoples' points of view the condos eggs are laid and must be hatched.

    I look forward to seeing this project move forward. There are several aspects of the vision I find very positive.

    On the other hand, maybe the city fathers can provide more influence to attract a wider variety of residential and retail to the South Knox Waterfront. I just hope more citizens will come forth to "define zoning restrictions and constraints", as rikki said, without requiring "17 new "residential condo" buildings (4 or 5 floors, 2 with 3 floors at the East end) in approximately 1 1/2 to 2 miles of area within 2 blocks of the river front (from the Gay Street bridge to the "new" South Knoxville bridge." I hope so.


    R. Neal's picture

    I think bizgrrl makes some

    I think bizgrrl makes some valid points. I've always thought there was room for more diverse types of housing over there, from the existing homes to more upscale single-family and townhouse type development to multi-family apartments and, yes, condos. This plan doesn't have much of a mix.

    As for all this density attracting new business and retail, might I remind everyone that when I lived on Sevier Ave., within two blocks of my house we had not one but two grocery stores (four if you count the smaller Parker's country-type store or Byrum and Townsend's up Sevier Ave. a ways, an independent drug store, a hardware/variety store, an appliance and electronics wholesaler with a retail showroom, two full-service gas stations that would fix a flat or change your oil or even rebuild your motor, two taverns, and an assortment of other small businesses like the beauty shop my Mom ran out of the back of our house. Now it's mostly just the Pilot beer/cig/lotto outlet that also sells gas, and a bail bond place.

    So, how is it that all the existing low-density housing over there was able to support all that then and not able to now? And will 1500 new condo residents be the tipping point?

    Don't get me wrong. I'm excited about something happening. If we can get a modest river walk with a nice restaurant or two and maybe a new marina at the expense of a couple of upscale condo buildings on the river front out of the deal I'll be thrilled. This other stuff like a "discovery center/museum" and "light rail" is just blowing smoke up somebody's skirt. (And why couldn't it be a community center instead of a museum?)

    But it's a grand vision. The reality of how it will unfold, however, is yet to be seen. The first major obstacle is relocating the tank farms. Here's what I see happening. The city will declare a giant TIF zone. If the Philips Ave. residents are smart, they will get historic designation for their neighborhood as Gemini has suggested. Then the city will start making some street and utility improvements, starting with the underpass at Blount Ave. to open up the mostly underdeveloped and underutilized property all the way down to Scottish Pike for condos. The old Buck Giffin property will be next, because it's there. A few condos will get built. Maybe a new concrete landing feature on the river similar to the one in Chattanooga. (Has anyone else noticed that this project has Chattanooga DNA running all through it?) Once all that happens, hopefully somebody local like Mike Conner or Mike Chase will invest in a nice restaurant/bar on the river over there somewhere. And maybe the bail bond place will move downtown and a pizza/deli will move in their space. All that would all be a pretty good outcome if you ask me.

    rikki's picture

    Retail is expanding

    Retail is expanding downtown. There are clothing stores, galleries, furniture/home decor stores, and Mast General is under construction.

    I don't understand what is so bad about being "surrounded by condos". Isn't that better than being surrounded by gas tanks and an asphalt plant and vacant lots? A restuarant or two would seem like a welcome addition to the area.

    That said, there is good reason to be concerned about what gets built along the new road below Phillips. That road apparently runs along the edge of the 100-yr floodplain, but they were talking about one or even two levels of parking underneath the structures there. Keeping those underground spaces dry will be a challenge, which could lead developers to push for taller structures instead. It would seem prudent to formalize height limits early on. 

    R. Neal's picture

    Rikki: That road apparently

    Rikki: That road apparently runs along the edge of the 100-yr floodplain, but they were talking about one or even two levels of parking underneath the structures there.

    Yes, I thought that was odd, too, and thought the same thing about keeping it dry.

    R. Neal's picture

    I think concern about

    I think concern about "surrounded by condos" is more of a concern about "surrounded by residential property not compatible with the existing neighborhood", and a suggestion that a better mix of housing types might be more appropriate.
    bizgrrl's picture

    I don't really know anything

    I don't really know anything about H-1 overlays, but here appears to be a contact at the City of Knoxville that will know something.

    Alternative Building Code, NC-1 & H-1

    Tom Reynolds, Plans Review & Inspections, 865-215-4282

    The Plans Review & Inspections Division promotes quality development and preserves neighborhood integrity and safety through plans review, building permits, building inspections, fire inspections and other regulatory activities.

    mccollum's picture

    Is it something one person

    Is it something one person would apply for, or does the entire neighborhood have to do it?  (sorry to ask questions like this, but I've found it's best to not go to the city unless you know what you're talking about)....


    R. Neal's picture

    From here:

    From here:

    Article 4, Section 14 H-1 Historic Overlay District


    The definition of historic districts subject to regulations to be applied under the H-1 Historic Overlay District shall be based on the standard of a geographically definable area which possesses a significant concentration, linkage or continuity of sites, buildings, structures or objects which are united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical development, and which meet one or more of the following criteria.

    1. That it is associated with an event which has made a significant contribution to local, state or national history.

    2. That it includes structures associated with the lives of persons significant in local, state or national history.

    3. That it contains structures or groups of structures which embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.

    4. That it has yielded or may be likely to yield archeological information important in history or prehistory.

    5. That it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


    1. The City Council of Knoxville or the Mayor or the owner of the subject property shall have the authority to initiate applications for H-1 historic overlay designation or the removal of properties from an H-1 historic overlay designation. The Historic Zoning Commission shall review requests for designation or removal of designation and shall advise City Council of their recommendations concerning designation or removal of designation for H-1 historic overlay. In the case of a request for designation, the Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission shall review the request based on the Criteria for Selection contained in Article 4, Section 14 F of this ordinance. In making recommendations for removal of designation, the Historic Zoning Commission shall likewise base its recommendations on the criteria contained in Article 4, Section 14 F of this ordinance, and the impact of removal on the remainder of the district. An applicant for removal of a property from an H-1 Historic Overlay District shall provide evidence of consultation with the historic district liaison prior to consideration of the request for removal by the Historic Zoning Commission. The City Council of Knoxville shall have authority to make final determination of designation or removal of designation after reviewing both the recommendations of the Historic Zoning Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Commission. The City Council of Knoxville shall notify the Historic Zoning Commission, the Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Building Official of the City of Knoxville of their approval or rejection of each proposed H-1 Historic Overlay District designation or the removal of designation within 30 days following such decision. All H-1 Historic Overlay Districts created or modified by the action of City Council shall be listed on the Historic Register of Knoxville.

    2. The Historic Zoning Commission shall have the authority to submit recommendations to the City Council of Knoxville regarding the creation of historic overlay districts in accordance with the criteria for selection contained in this historic zoning ordinance and shall likewise review requests for designation made by individuals, organizations or other governmental bodies. The Historic Zoning Commission shall submit their recommendations regarding such designations in writing to the City Council of Knoxville.

    3. The Historic Zoning Commission and the Metropolitan Planning Commission shall each submit written recommendations to the City Council of Knoxville regarding the creation or the removal of properties from Historic Overlay Districts.

    So, from all this it sounds like your neighborhood association would contact the Historic Zoning Commission about creating an H-1 overlay. It sounds like your criteria would be #3, "That it contains structures or groups of structures which embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction."

    Rachel's picture

    R. Neal is basically

    R. Neal is basically correct. And MPC has a historic preservation planner, Ann Bennett, who helps neighborhoods through the H-1 process. And yes, you can get an H-1 overlay on one house. But it makes a whole lot more sense to look for one on a neighborhood since that is really what you are trying to protect.
    mccollum's picture

    Hmmm.....I've thought about

    Hmmm.....I've thought about putting a larger deck in the back of the house; if I did this, would I make the property no longer historic?  Actually, when I bought it there was a makeshift deck on it which was not structurally sound so we tore it down.  Well, unless the H-1 designation is in place I guess I can do almost anything I want, although maybe putting a new deck in the back might decrease its likelihood of attaining H-1 status?       
    R. Neal's picture

    Those are pretty good

    Those are pretty good questions. Maybe one of the previously mentioned organizations can answer these questions and provide you with all of the other information you're looking for?
    bizgrrl's picture

    NYT article yesterday

    NYT article yesterday (2/8/06), A Florida City Awaits the payoff From Its Bet on Condos.

    "The city leaders have put all their eggs in the condo basket," said Warren J. Wright, the councilman for downtown Fort Myers. "They said, if we build enough condo units, then downtown will come back to life. But the way the economy is going, I'm not sure they'll ever get built."

    But planners and community advocates lament that the city has not done more to encourage downtown work force housing and retailing, as well as waterfront amenities for people who already live in Fort Myers.

    "The city has approved all these condo units on the river and didn't pay any attention to the other pieces of the puzzle," said Marsa Detscher, an urban planning consultant who lives in Fort Myers but works outside the area.

    I am sure there are cities that have been successful with these types of condo projects, but are they cities that are already successful? In other words, don't tell me how successful Orlando or Chicago or Austin or Los Angeles are, it's not the condos I tell ya.



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