What Makes a City Beautiful? Keep Knoxville Beautiful Finds the Answer in Downtown Buildings

The Knoxville Museum of Art, March 2016

The Knoxville Museum of Art, March 2016

Keep Knoxville Beautiful is a local organization devoted to just what their name would imply. Their mission statement indicates that they love all things “clean, green and beautiful.” To keep it clean, they organize major litter cleanups, support efforts to that end by smaller groups and educate area children. To keep it green, they offer a recycling vehicle for use by any group who requests it and they educate area children in that arena, as well. They also sponsor “beautification mobs,” and have started a graffiti abatement program.

The graffiti abatement program might be of interest to some of you who own downtown properties. The group will provide a kit which basically contains everything you need to remove graffiti. City Council member Marshall Stair was instrumental in launching this program.

Oakwood Senior Living, Knoxville, March 2013

Oakwood Senior Living, Knoxville, March 2013 (Before Renovations)

The Oakwood Senior Living Center, 232 E. Churchwell, Knoxville, March 2016

The Oakwood Senior Living Center, 232 E. Churchwell, Knoxville, March 2016

The Oakwood Senior Living Center, 232 E. Churchwell, Knoxville, March 2016

The Oakwood Senior Living Center, 232 E. Churchwell, Knoxville, March 2016

They also serve as an advisory resources for difficult to remove graffiti. Additionally, they are organizing a “blitz” day for this spring to target an impacted neighborhood to remove graffiti. They are also working with local artist Denise Stewart-Sanabria to offer murals to positively replace graffiti in areas where it continues to return.

Other than our graffiti issue, what does all this have to do with downtown? The group recently held their Orchid Awards event at the Standard. The annual program recognizes successful efforts at beautification around the city. Downtown didn’t sweep the awards, but it was very close. Contemporary Women’s Health won the “New Architecture” award and it’s located out west. The “Outdoor Space award went to Sansom Sports Complex and the Town of Farragut Outdoor Classroom. Otherwise, it’s all downtown.

White Lily Flats, Central Street, Knoxville, March 2016

White Lily Flats, Central Street, Knoxville, March 2016

White Lily and Adjacent Building, Knoxville, October 2011

White Lily and Adjacent Building, Knoxville, October 2011 Before Renovation

The award for “Redesign/Reuse” went to two very deserving projects, each of which I’ve mentioned here. Oakwood Elementary School (232 E. Churchwell) was falling in on itself when Rick Dover purchased it and re-purposed it to a senior living center. I wrote about and photographed it three years ago when the construction was just beginning. It’s an incredible transformation and has gone from empty, blighted property to a beautiful home to senior citizens. You can see a full tour of the building before renovations here.

White Lily Flour was an institution for many years. When the factory was closed several years ago, what remained was a very large building with no clear purpose. Enter David Dewhirst and the property, now known as White Lily Flats,  is not only beautiful, but is filled with residents. The cherry on the project to me, was the unveiling of an attached building with unique plaster and brick designs. I only know of a couple of others like it in the city. You can see a tour of the building before renovations (November 2011) and of the apartments after the renovation (November 2014).

Babalu, 412 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2016

Babalu, 412 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2016

The winner in the restaurant/cafe/bar/brewery category was Babalu (412 S. Gay). Given the previous condition of the J.C. Penney building, this one is hard to argue. It’s gone from being a shell with a facade in need of love. And did it find it! It’s now one of the most beautiful facades on Gay Street and Babalu did an excellent job with their build-out. The entrance is attractive and their outdoor seating is surrounded by a herb garden in flower boxes. Very appealing.

Water Station Dedication, Market Square, Knoxville, September 2015

Water Station Dedication, Market Square, Knoxville, September 2015

Christmas Window Displays, Coolato Gelato, Gay Street, Knoxville, December 2012

Christmas Window Displays, Coolato Gelato, Gay Street, Knoxville, December 2012

The Public Art award went to a project that not only beautified, but added to our health: The Bringing Tap Back Water Refill Stations. They are all over, but the one on Market Square was designed by Brenda Mills. In addition to Mills, other artists receiving recognition were Adrienne Schwarte and Denise Stewart-Sanabria. The Environmental Stewardship Award was given to the WROL building, the most visible tenant of which is Coolato Gelato.

Finally the Mary Lou Horner Beautification Award was given to the Knoxville Museum of Art for their tremendous efforts at upgrading and cleaning their building along with building and opening the north garden.

The East Tennessee Community Design Center served as judges. The pace of change is so rapid in our city that it’s easy to move constantly to the “next big thing,” and not give appropriate pause to recognize jobs well done. This is that pause.

 

 

Comments

  1. Gene Burr says:

    The “Orchids Award” program is good, but I thought that the “Orchids and Onions” program, that preceded it for many years was even better. It provided a good-natured way of pointing out eyesores that detract from the community and recognizing efforts to turn “stumbling blocks into stepping stones” when the eyesores are corrected.

  2. Cheryl Luedtke says:

    Love the The Bringing Tap Back Water Refill Stations…..but now we need downtown “comfort stations” even more! Any updates on their arrival?

  3. I definitely appreciate historic preservation and businesses that take beautifying their spaces seriously. It was interesting to learn that KBB also works to reduce litter. Unfortunately, Knoxville may be the most “trashed” city I have ever lived in. Beyond a plague of cigarette butts downtown, drive along any of our scenic roads and pikes and the piles of trash along the roadsides stands out. Cans, bottles, and fast food debris litter the shoulders of most of our roads. What a shame.

  4. The woman that owns Coolato Gelato is so incredibly talented.

  5. Mae Moody says:

    Really enjoyed the awards at the Standard. All of you do a great job!
    Jack and Mae Moody

  6. Good job, Councilman Stair and KKB. Beautiful can trump scruffy, especially for residents!

Speak Your Mind

*