Last spring I heard rumblings that the Urban Land Institute would visit Knoxville. I didn’t really know what that meant and didn’t tune in until the summer when I realized the outside group would look at specific sites and make recommendations. The recommendations are likely to have an impact on what the city does going forward as it relates to the sites designated. So I became more interested.
Just who was this group? You can follow the link above to learn more, but basically, according to their site:
ULI, the Urban Land Institute, is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit research and education organization supported by its members. Founded in 1936, we now have more than 32,000 members worldwide, representing the entire spectrum of land use and real estate development disciplines working in private enterprise and public service. A multidisciplinary real estate forum, ULI facilitates creating better places.
According to the press release from the city, they have been asked to look at the following sites and issues around downtown:
City-owned properties on West Jackson Avenue between Broadway and Gay Street, including the former sites of the McClung Warehouses. Mayor Rogero has indicated that these properties will be offered for private redevelopment.
The old State Supreme Court building and adjacent lots covering the block bounded by Henley Street, Locust Street, Church Avenue and Cumberland Avenue. The State of Tennessee has offered the property for sale through the City’s Industrial Development Board. A Request for Proposals last year did not lead to a feasible project.
The Broadway/Henley Street corridor from Jackson Avenue south to Cumberland Avenue, with a focus on improving north-south and east-west connectivity.
World’s Fair Park, which will be studied for potential improvements to its public spaces and connections to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Civic Coliseum and Auditorium complex on Howard Baker Jr. Avenue. A separate feasibility study is already underway to assess the physical state of those facilities. ULI will be considering the broader future of the whole site and its connections to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
These sites are, of course, familiar to readers of this blog, as we’ve discussed them all with the exception of the Civic Colisuem and Auditorium complex. Metro Pulse had an excellent article on that topic not to long ago. At this point the discussion could matter.
The ULI group will arrive in Knoxville on Sunday and by Friday morning, October 10, they will present a complete report of their findings. I cannot imagine how this is possible, but this isn’t their first dance, so we’ll see. Sunday night will include a dinner with city officials, Monday afternoon at 5:00 PM the Mayor will hold a press conference followed by a reception. Tuesday the group will conduct interviews with 179 “stakeholders.” Friday morning at 9:00 AM at the Bijou Theatre the results will be presented to the public. Presumably in between will be a large amount of walking around the various sites. It is quite an understatement to say it’s an ambitious schedule.
If you’d like to really delve into the matter, there are a couple of documents you might want to peruse: The Urban Land Institute actually visited Knoxville in 1998 and looked at the World’s Fair Site, including the development of a Convention Center. You can read their 51 page report at this link. They have also been given a “briefing book” to prep them for their task, which contains a lot of interesting information about the city. You can read that 91 page document here. You can find bios of the current committee coming to Knoxville at this link.
So, I would love to see more comments for this post than any I’ve ever written. I would love for those of you who are not meeting with them to say in a comment what you would say to the ULI if you had the chance. Speak to one or all of the topics. There’s a good chance your ideas will be heard. So what do you think are the most important changes, focuses or additions to each of these sites?