Is there development potential under our feet?



Entryway beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville

Regular readers of this blog know that I recently spent some time walking Depot Avenue and considering the possibilities for development. As a part of that post I took pictures from Depot toward the main portion of downtown across the tracks. These shots reminded me that I’ve wanted to explore the underside of Jackson Avenue.
It’s been pretty widely documented that the 100 Block of Gay Street was elevated from its original topography in order to allow automobile traffic to cross the railyard more safely. I’d never thought about Jackson Avenue’s rise and fall as it crosses Gay Street into the Old City as being a similar project, but it must have been.

Shaft checks out the possibilities beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville.

There are pretty intact doorways, passageways and areas that look as if they may be currently used for storage, perhaps in support of the renovations occuring on street level above. The corridors, passageways and rooms under the street would lead to some of the structures on the 100 Block of Gay Street, though much of that space, as has been documented elsewhere, is taken by pipes, wiring and other infrastructure for the residents and businesses above.


A Glimpse underneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville

Some of the entry-ways could easily be attractive enough to be used in only slightly modified form for the entry into a bar or cool restaurant and the space behind them seems adequate for such a purpose. One of the steadiest long-term complaints about downtown would not be an issue as a large parking lot sits directly in front of these potetial businesses. If it all sounds a bit ridiculous as a location because it looks unattractive or unsafe, please consider the spot a few blocks to the west where the Valarium and Cider House seem to be thriving.


Beneath Jackson Avenue, Knoxville

Just to the east, on the same level, are the loading docks, which I assume were built to hold frieght from or for the trains when the rail system was at its peak. I’ve thought for years that these would also make great shops, restaurants and bars. I’ve seem similar structures so adaptated in San Francisco and I’m sure it’s been done else where. This would further cement the connection between the 100 Block and the Old City. 

Loading Docks off Jackson: Storage now available.

Unfortunately, I recently received a flier advertising that some of that space will now be offered for storage. I’ve always felt long-term storage to be an indictment against western consumption and commercialism. If I don’t have room for it I need to let it go – or better, yet, never buy it in the first place. But then, I’m as guilty as anybody of wasteful spending and needless accumulation. Besides, short-term storage is probably a need for many people. It just seems like a waste of real estate in the city. Maybe it’s a temporary use for the buildings.
So, do I think we’ll see this kind of development by the spring? No. I will likely be many springs until such a thing would be considered, but I think it’s there waiting for the right vision. Maybe yours? Just askin’.

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