The title alone is a confession of my ignorance. I’d heard “Parkridge” mentioned in the same breath as “Old North” and “Fourth and Gill,” so I knew it was one of the “ring” neighborhoods around downtown. A reader asked that I drop by last Saturday to see what was happening in the community and so, working around trips to the Steampunk Carnivalle and other Saturday pleasures and obligations, I went there.
What I found was a block party in the heart of the community. And where is that community? The geographic boundaries are from First Creek to the west (about where the old minor league baseball team used to be) down to Cherry Street at its eastern edge. It’s a fairly narrow strip between those two points including only the area between I-40 and Magnolia Avenue. Notable streets include Woodbine, Washington, Glenwood and Fifth Avenue.
Its a neighborhood that continues to make strides in redevelopment, but has a ways to go. Some houses have been renovated, while others remain in need. Houses once condemned are now habitable. The homes in the area date to the 1930s era, for the most part, so they aren’t quite as old, on average, as homes in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood. Many in the neighborhood are architectural products of George Barber.
The block party – or “Fifth Avenue Arts explosion – ran down Fifth Avenue toward the eastern end of the neighborhood and, as its name implies, the focal point was arts. Literacy was emphasized as was visual and performing arts. Original paintings and drawings were offered for sale as well as portraits. My favorite art had to be the great gospel music being sung from the high porch of the church. They rocked out, called and responded and called all over again. Old and young held up their voices together as the community watched from the shade of one of the many beautiful trees lining the street.
A food truck dished out food I’ve not seen in a food truck in the city, from fried green tomatoes to fried pickles and okra, it had a unique menu. Clusters of people huddled in shades and visited with neighbors. I enjoyed talking to Chad Hellwinckel about the neighborhood. He and his wife Tracie, who invited me, have renovated a condemned property and were able to move in after about four years of work. He pointed out that the community is great for biking because of the relatively flat entrance into downtown.
I also talked with Sherri Williams who told me about the Connect Ministry and spoke to my friend Terry Shaw. I spent some time with Chantel Kluemper and Carolyn Barnes talking about Kickstand, Knoxville’s bicycle collective. I plan to have more on them as the summer goes on, but at this event they offered bicycle repair and helmets to the children in the neighborhood and seemed to be making quite a few friends by the time I left. Chantel told me she had put enough volunteer hours into the organization to earn a free bike.
All taken together, it was a fun day and a hopeful scene in Parkridge which is likely to be an area of strong growth in the coming years as it appears to be picking up its development pace and as the fingers of downtown redevelopment stretch in that direction. I hope to return and learn more about this small section of the city.