Elements of Urbanism: Knoxville

August 20, 2012 27 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to the downtown of one of southern Appalachia's largest cities: Knoxville

Tale of the Tape:

Knoxville Pop. 2011: 180,761 (City); 704,500 (Metro-2011) - (incorporated in 1786)

Jacksonville Pop. 2011: 827,908 (City); 1,360,251 (Metro-2011) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Knoxville (124,769)

Metropolitan Area Growth Rate (2010-2011)

Knoxville: +0.93%
Jacksonville: +1.09%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Knoxville: 558,696 (ranked 74 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Knoxville: 1,275.1 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2010

Knoxville: +6,871
Jacksonville: +92,405

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Knoxville: Knoxville Convention and Exposition Center (2002)  - 120,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Attached to Convention Center:

Knoxville: Holiday Inn World's Fair Park (286 rooms)
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Knoxville: First Tennessee Plaza - 328 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies:

Knoxville: N/A
Jacksonville: CSX (226), Winn-Dixie Stores (363), Fidelity National Information Services (425), Fidelity National Financial (472)

Urban infill obstacles:

Knoxville: A network of freeways sever downtown's connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Knoxville: Old City
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Knoxville: 85 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 78 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

About Downtown Knoxville

It contains the city's central business district and primary city and county municipal offices. It is also home to several retail establishments, residential buildings, and the city's convention center. The downtown area contains the oldest parts of Knoxville, and is home to the city's oldest buildings.

Knoxville's downtown area is traditionally bounded by First Creek on the east, Second Creek on the west, the Tennessee River on the south, and the Southern Railroad tracks on the north. In recent decades, however, the definition of "downtown" has expanded to include the University of Tennessee campus and Fort Sanders neighborhood west of Second Creek, the Emory Place district and parts of Broadway and Central north of the Southern tracks ("Downtown North"), and parts of the Morningside area east of First Creek. Important sections of Downtown Knoxville include Gay Street, Market Square, the Old City, the World's Fair Park, and Volunteer Landing on the riverfront.

The downtown area is home to several large office buildings, including the Plaza Tower and Riverview Tower (the city's two tallest buildings), the TVA Towers, the General Building, the Medical Arts Building, the Bank of America Building, and the City-County Building and the Andrew Johnson Building, the latter two of which house municipal offices for Knoxville and Knox County. The Knox County Courthouse and Howard Baker, Jr., Federal Courthouse are located on Main Street. Notable historical buildings include Blount Mansion, the reconstructed James White Fort, the Bijou Theatre, Tennessee Theatre, Old City Hall, and the L&N Station. World's Fair Park is home to the Knoxville Convention Center, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the city's most iconic structure, the Sunsphere.

Throughout much of the 20th century, city leaders struggled to revive the downtown area, which was once the primary retail center of Knoxville. Most revitalization initiatives failed, however, due in large part to a highly-factionalized city government. In recent years, the city has had some success with mixed residential-commercial areas, namely in the Old City and along Gay Street. This effort has been aided in large part by developers such as Kristopher Kendrick and David Dewhirst, who have renovated aging office and warehouse buildings such as the Holston, Sterchi Lofts, and the JFG Building for use as condominiums and residential flats.

World's Fair Park

Once the site of the 1982 World's Fair, this incredible park includes miles of lawn, acres of flowers, cascading waterfalls, placid streams, and many more gifts of natural beauty create an inviting environment for festivals, performances, meetings, conferences, or a quiet moment for personal reflection. The park is also the home of the Knoxville Convention Center.

The Knoxville Convention Center containcs 120,000 square feet of exhibit space. Jacksonville's Prime Osborn contains 78,500 square feet of exhibit space.

The Sunsphere is an 266 foot high hexagonal steel truss structure, topped with a 75 foot gold-colored glass sphere that served as the symbol of the 1982 World's Fair.

University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee is a public sun-grant and land-grant university founded in 1794. Adjacent to downtown Knoxville, it is the flagship institution of the statewide University of Tennessee system with nine undergraduate colleges and eleven graduate colleges and hosts almost 28,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. In its 2012 ranking of universities, U.S. News & World Report ranked UT 101st among all national universities and 46th among public institutions of higher learning. Its ties to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, established under UT President Andrew Holt and continued under the UT-Battelle partnership, allow for considerable research opportunities for faculty and students.

The Cumberland Avenue Strip is a collection of bars and restaurants lining Cumberland Avenue, adjacent to the University of Tennessee.  Plans are underway to making the strip more pedestrian friendly. In order to do this, the city plans to run the power lines under Cumberland Avenue and narrow the street to three lanes to widen the sidewalks.

Market Square

Established in 1854 as a market place for regional farmers, the square has developed over the decades into a multipurpose venue that accommodates events ranging from concerts to political rallies, and has long provided a popular gathering place for artists, street musicians, war veterans, and activists. Along with the Market House, Market Square was home to Knoxville's City Hall from 1868 to 1924. Market Square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

In the 1950s, Knoxville mayor George Dempster spearheaded an effort to tear down Market Hall as part of the city's efforts to revitalize its downtown area. In spite of a campaign by preservationists to save the building, which included speeches by poet Carl Sandburg and conservationist Harvey Broome, the city voted to remove Market Hall in November 1959 (the building's fate was further sealed when it partially burned a month later). Market Hall was replaced by the Market Square Mall, an open-air market that consisted of a series of white "toadstool"-shaped canopies. The mall received a boost with the completion of the TVA Towers at the north end of the Square in 1976, and the construction of Krutch Park in 1981. In 1986, at the urging of historical preservationists, the white canopies were removed, and the Market Square Mall was renamed "Market Square."

Market Square is currently used year-round as a venue for special outdoor events, including a seasonal farmer's market, the "Sundown in the City" concert series, and community band concerts. The bell from the old market house is displayed at the Union Avenue end of Market Square. Nearby is the Women's Suffrage Memorial, a statue created by sculptor Alan LeQuire to commemorate Tennessee's role in achieving Women's suffrage in the United States. An open-air ice skating rink is created in the square every winter.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected by the Great Depression.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has rated the Tennessee Valley Authority’s headquarters in Knoxville among the nation’s most energy-efficient buildings. TVA’s 12-story, twin-tower Knoxville office complex has received EPA’s Energy Star award, placing the work site for nearly 1,300 TVA employees in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide in energy performance.

Charles Krutch Park is a scenic park located in the middle of downtown Knoxville. The park features a beautiful water feature with small falls and a flowing stream. Park patrons can enjoy this amenity from the picnic tables provided in the park.

Gay Street

Since its development in the 1790s, Gay Street has served as the city's principal financial and commercial thoroughfare, and has played a primary role in the city's historical and cultural development. The street contains Knoxville's largest office buildings and oldest commercial structures.

Part of Charles McClung's original 1791 plat of Knoxville, Gay Street was a focal point for the early political activity of both the city as well as the State of Tennessee. By 1850, Gay Street was home to three-fourths of Knoxville's commercial activity, and in 1854, the street became Knoxville's first paved road. On the eve of the Civil War, Gay Street was the site of simultaneous Union and Confederate recruiting rallies. After the war, Gay Street saw extensive commercial development as railroad construction brought an industrial boom to Knoxville.

The development of suburbs on the periphery of Knoxville in the 1950s led to the rise of suburban shopping centers, and Gay Street, which had long struggled with traffic congestion and lack of parking, began to decline as a major retail corridor. In 1954, Rich's (which had purchased S. H. George's) moved to a new location, and Miller's abandoned plans to build a new store on Gay Street's 800 block. In an attempt to revitalize the downtown area, several Knoxville businessmen formed the Downtown Knoxville Association in 1956. Following the DKA's suggestions, more parking space was created for Gay Street businesses and storefronts were renovated, but efforts to revitalize Gay Street as a major commercial corridor were largely unsuccessful.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Gay Street transitioned from a retail corridor to an office market, symbolized by the erection of the Plaza and Riverview towers, and the renovation of the Andrew Johnson Hotel as an office building. During the same period, successful efforts to save the Bijou laid the foundation for the preservation group Knox Heritage, and more focus was placed on the preservation of Gay Street's historical integrity. More recently, a number of Gay Street high-rises, including the Holston, Sterchi Lofts, and the upper levels of the Burwell Building, have been successfully renovated as downtown condominium space.

Tennessee Theatre, or the Burwell Building (600 South Gay), a 12-story Spanish/Moorish-style building constructed in 1907. The Tennessee Theatre, which was added to the building 1928, is still used as a performance venue, while the upper floors of the building now house condominiums.

The Holston (531 South Gay), a 14-story Neoclassical-style building constructed 1912-1913 for the Holston National Bank. This building is now a condominium.

Woodruff Building (424 South Gay), a five-story Classical Revival-style building constructed in 1905 for the hardware firm, W. W. Woodruff and Company. Woodruff's original building at this site burned in the "Million Dollar Fire" of 1897, and the second burned in 1904. This building is currently home to a restaurant, the Downtown Grill and Brewery.

Regal Rivera Cinema 8

Old City

The Old City is a neighborhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, located at the northeast corner of the city's downtown area. Originally part of a raucous and vice-ridden section of town known as "The Bowery," the Old City has since been revitalized through extensive redevelopment efforts carried out during the 1980s and 1990s. Presently, the Old City is an offbeat urban neighborhood, home to several unique restaurants, bars, clubs, and shops.
In spite of its name, the Old City is not the oldest section of Knoxville. Most of the neighborhood was not part of the city until the 1850s, when the arrival of the railroad encouraged the city to annex the areas north of Vine Avenue. The railroad brought an influx of Irish immigrants, who established the Old City's first saloons and shops. After the Civil War, Knoxville developed into one of the southeast's largest wholesaling centers. Wholesalers built large warehouses, such as the ones along Jackson Avenue, where rural East Tennessee merchants came to buy the goods with which they stocked their general stores.

By the early 1900s, Central Street was lined with saloons and brothels. Violent crime and prostitution continued to be a problem into the 1960s, causing many of the neighborhood's businesses to flee the area. Beginning in the 1970s, successful redevelopment efforts led by Kristopher Kendrick (who coined the name "Old City") and Peter Calandruccio revitalized the neighborhood.

Now considered the "club district" of Knoxville (currently no strip clubs), the Old City is generally made up of warehouses, buildings of light industrial use, and a small historically commercial strip along South Central Street. The White Lily Foods plant, which had operated since 1885, shut down in 2008. JFG Coffee was for decades located in several buildings in the Old City, but has recently moved. The former JFG roasting facility at 200 West Jackson Avenue was redevleoped into the JFG Flats residential lofts in 2009, and the White Lily Foods building was purchased in 2012 by the same company that developed the roasting facility (Dewhirst Properties). It will be developed for residential rental apartments in 2013 and 2014. John H. Daniel Company, a custom tailoring company, has operated on West Jackson since 1928.

There are several loft apartments in the older buildings of the Old City, many located behind and above offices and stores. The Jackson Ateliers Building and Hewgley Park lofts have been residential locations for many years. The Jacksonian Condos, JFG Flats, and Fire Street Lofts, have been redeveloped more recently as upscale condominiums, some listing in excess of $600,000.

The area tends to attract young single adults, who are sometimes affiliated with the University of Tennessee, which is less than two miles away. The Old City's proximity to entertainment and nightlife make it an attractive place to live for many young adults. The Old City has a noticeable presence of homeless people, but violence is uncommon and the main concern is panhandling.

Downtown Knoxville Employees: 21,743

Downtown Knoxville Residents: 1,948

Average Household Income: $31,632

Source: 2010 TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development.

The Riverview Tower is an office high-rise located at 900 Gay Street in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. Completed in 1985, the 24-story structure is Knoxville's second-tallest building, and along with its sister building, the First Tennessee Plaza, anchors Knoxville's downtown office market. Since 2003, BB&T has been the building's primary tenant.

For more information: http://www.downtownknoxville.org/

Photographs by Ennis Davis. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com

General article text from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knoxville,_Tennessee.