It’s been while since I did one of my make-up columns. These are news items reported elsewhere which I haven’t mentioned on this blog. I didn’t break the news and after it had been reported by others, there didn’t seem much point in rehashing. On the other hand, some of you may have missed parts of it, and it seems that as I try to document downtown, these things should be mentioned. So here are a few nuggets for your Thursday.
Arrests were made in the McClung fire. This is interesting for many reasons. We never knew who set the first fire and it seemed odd that people were able to get inside the warehouse this time around. For the conspiracy theorists among us, it should be noted that those arrested were homeless men, not anyone in the city government. Tragically, it appears they set the fire deliberately – it was not an accident as they were trying to keep warm as is often the case with such fires. Now the conspiracy theorists may ask why would they do that and did someone put them up to it? Maybe we’ll find out eventually. The strangest detail I saw reported was the color of the Bic lighter that started the fire. For those keeping score at home, it was blue.
I realize that is just outside my zone, but I suspect it will have a significant impact on downtown as the Publix becomes an attractive grocery option. I’m not sure what impact the Walmart will have and I hope it isn’t negative. It’s hard to be completely negative about a project that utilizes a brownfield and places parking on the ground floors rather than paving several acres. The next question is whether KAT will quickly realize that a trolley route needs to loop through downtown and take passengers to the grocery store.
Two more lanes of the Henley Street Bridge opened last week, though the work will continue until June to finish some details and open the remaining lanes. I suspect there are people who are delighted to have the bridge back – mostly people who drive through downtown on a regular basis – but I’ve heard more than one person say that after getting used to it being closed they didn’t really miss it that much and the congestion downtown seemed to have worked itself out pretty quickly. For pedestrians crossing Henley, it’s back to playing Frogger.
Bacon and Company and Athletic House – two Knoxville Companies founded in the 1920s – are merging. The Athletic House employees will move into the downtown building currently housing Bacon and Company. I’ve written about Bacon and Company in the past and was taken to school by my readers. Many people have been frustrated for years that despite the resurgence going on all around them, the family who owns the buildings on Summit Hill have done nothing to improve or repair the appearance of their building. Maybe they have plans to do so. I’ll keep hoping. The buildings are beautiful.
The wooded section of Market Square will undergo some changes soon. It appears the city has tired of constantly re-seeding the heavily utilized area and will place pathways through the site and make other changes designed, apparently, to reduce required maintenance of the lawn and to further protect the trees there. The trees are Sawtooth Oaks and are said to be around fifty years old, which is a very ripe old age for an urban tree. They have a hard life.
There was also a big kerfluffle downtown a week ago on Saturday when Gay Street was closed for the purpose of lifting steel beams to the top of a building beside the JC Penny Building. The street closure was not announced ahead of time and portions of the city government who should have been informed and would have passed on the word were not informed. Businesses reported significant losses for the day which turned out to be a beautiful February day with hundreds of people coming downtown for the day. Mast General Store estimated they lost 60% of revenue for the day. It caused some to wonder if the city shouldn’t revisit permits and procedures given that we aren’t the sleepy little town we were ten years ago.