Parking News in the City

Empty Lot at Locust and Summer Place (Kimberly Clark in the back), Knoxville

It’s hardly news at this point, but since I haven’t discussed it on this blog, it seems as if I should mention some of the recent chatter about parking. Even though it has been a topic for years downtown, it hasn’t really been a problem in a long time. That has changed. The garages are often full and two businesses have announced plans to move out of the city citing some issue or another with parking. Kimberly Clark is by far the biggest of these. Suddenly concern is spreading that we must have more parking to continue the momentum we’ve established in developing the city.

Plans have been underway for some time to add floors to the State Street Garage and that will help, though that’s a bit further out from their destinations than some people might prefer. Most recently it has been reported that an option to acquire a parcel of property at the corner of Locust and Summer Place was taken out by Summer Place Development, LLC. While they aren’t saying what they have in mind, this spot has been discussed as a possible site for additional parking.

Parking lot between the Daylight and Liberty Buildings

It’s all very interesting to me on a personal level. First of all, I parked adjacent to this spot between the Liberty Building and the Daylight Building many times in the late 80s and early 90s. There was a parking lot where the Market Square Garage is currently located and it was just behind Watson’s Department Store, which had an entrance on that side. When that lot was full, the lot across Walnut between the two buildings was the next choice. Now many of those spaces are reserved for the residents of the Daylight Building which was empty twenty years ago.

Fast forward twenty years and I can now see the parking lot and the blighted hole in the ground which has been optioned from the windows of my home. I’ve written about it before as it is an eyesore and a danger. There is fencing around it, but that fencing is unstable and falls into the hole periodically. The sidewalk is virtually impassible because of the fencing and the large rocks used to prop it up.

Liberty Building, Walnut Street, Knoxville

Liberty Building, corner of Walnut and Summer Place

I’ve wondered if there could not be some development on this block. The very ugly Liberty Building occupies a large portion of the southern side of Summer Place between Walnut and Locust. It would take real imagination to make this building, which looks like something that might be described as “Soviet Era” into something useful once more. The windows are small and there is very little to recommend the thing. I’m not sure who owns it, but it is boarded up and there are no “for sale” signs in evidence, so I suppose they are happy to let it sit.

The space targeted for purchase seems small, to me, for a parking garage, though there is an adjacent surface lot which may be part of the deal and with it added there might be enough room. I wonder if the building is included in the plans. My dream for this entire block would for office and retail space to line the street on that end of the block just as it now does on the other end in the Daylight Building. Perhaps any new construction could feature businesses on the ground level, parking above and residences on the top floors.

Lower level parking adjacent to the corner of Locust and Summer Place

The partnership with the option is saying nothing, so they may not be thinking of parking at all. They also may never exercise the option or may do so and sit on the property for a long time. I’d feel better about the lot if it was filled to make a surface parking lot, though I don’t think that would make anybody particularly over-joyed. Here’s hoping that spring brings exciting news on that front. If you hear anything, let me know.