A Proposal for Parkridge from the E. TN Community Design Center

E. TN. Community Design Center Proposal for Parkridge, Knoxville, July 2015

E. TN. Community Design Center Proposal for Parkridge, Knoxville, July 2015

I’ve found that people have widely divergent views of the kind of place they like to live in the city. Some like to live in an expensive, refined and completely developed area. Others like their part of town to be a bit more edgy and less polished. Often on this website we talk about urban design and, as our conversations often reveal, our understanding of what constitutes good urban design varies quite a bit. Who defines good urban design for those of us who only have a vague notion of the concept?

One such group is the East Tennessee Community Design Center. I’ve mentioned them numerous times, most recently writing a full article on the group when Wayne Blasius was named Executive Director, last February. According to their website, “ETCDC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make East Tennessee a better place to live and work by bringing professional design and planning assistance to community groups and nonprofit organizations. East Tennessee Community Design Center receives pro bono design assistance from area architects, landscape architects, planners and other professionals.”

Current Photographs of the Area for Proposed Streetscape Project, Knoxville, July 2015

Current Photographs of the Area for Proposed Streetscape Project, Knoxville, July 2015

Aerial Photograph of the Area for Proposed Streetscape Project, Knoxville, July 2015

Aerial Photograph of the Area for Proposed Streetscape Project, Knoxville, July 2015

Many of the touches around town that involved design on a large or small scale started with a proposal or rendering of a possibility by the people at the center. For example, much of the work planned for and underway in the Old City started with suggestions and input from the design center. When requests for proposals went out for Knoxville High School, it was with the backdrop of a study by the design center to look at best uses.

Recently, the group turned its attention to Parkridge – the area to which I referred in Friday’s article about Downtown Yoga. It sits on the edge of the neighborhood which is bounded by Hall of Fame on the west, Cherry Street on the east, and I-40 and Magnolia to the north and south respectively. It lays claim to about 600 historic homes and I most recently wrote about the homes last October (here and here).

Leslie Fawaz, East Tennessee Community Design Center, Knoxville, August 2015

Leslie Fawaz, East Tennessee Community Design Center, Knoxville, August 2015

But it is also an area with blocks that have fallen into some disrepair or have had buildings torn down. The 1500 block of Washington Avenue, and adjacent areas in particular, has a number of issues in what used to be a retail center for the area. Trash accumulates on the street (there are no trash cans), the sidewalks are broken and have numerous cut-throughs. Parking lots line much of the area and a KUB sub-station fronts a portion. One could look at it and see a forlorn city-scape, but the ETCDC is trained to look at such areas for potential.

Recently, residents asked the city to consider what might be done to improve the area and the city contacted the ETCDC. They secured a community development grant to look into the situation. The group talked to the businesses currently located in the area to get their input and came up with a design which would not only beautify the area for current residents and businesses, but would increase the likelihood of attracting new businesses.

What did they recommend? Leslie Fawaz of the center offered to explain it to me recently. Some things are pretty simple: narrow the streets and plant trees on either side, for example. The area is slated for a greenway connection, so making it more conducive to that seemed logical. Facades could use some improvement to make them more appealing and less industrial. Parking could be shifted to the rear of some buildings and entrances to parking lots could be taken off main roads – which makes sidewalks safer and more appealing.

E. TN. Community Design Center Proposal for Parkridge, Knoxville, July 2015

E. TN. Community Design Center Proposal for Parkridge, Knoxville, July 2015

Crosswalks could be beautified – which should also make them more safe. The businesses in the two block area were at least receptive to having the conversation. KUB agreed the design – for purposes of discussion – could include an attractive wall around their substation with a welcome sign to the neighborhood. An empty lot could become a container park – which have become very popular elsewhere and includes using shipping containers as temporary enclosures for small businesses.

The area already includes Abbey Fields, which I profiled last March. Standard Knitting Mills, which has been discussed at length as a possible site for redevelopment, sits just past that project. It’s not hard to imagine Standard Knitting Mills filled with residents and businesses and connecting easily to the area in question. An urban node would be renewed with businesses to support the growing community. With the Magnolia Avenue project just a few blocks away, could the city find a way to make some of these suggestions a reality?


  1. Abe Walker says

    Is the actual plan available to download? I can’t find it linked anywhere above.

  2. Alan, can you tell me what you mean by “The area is slated for a greenway connection, so making it more conducive to that seemed logical.”

    I have trouble gleaning information from the city about plans for a greenway connection for Upper and Lower First Creek. Just wondering if you’ve got something new that I need to ask about. My latest information (2 years old) is the city “plans” to design a connection in-house. So basically, they “plan to plan.” But no plan yet – as far as I know. I believe they need to be pressed on this and should not get credit for a non-existent plan.

    Also, I was not involved in this, but my understanding was Parkridge Community Organization applied for and won a City grant, then approached the Center for Community Design. The city’s lack of planning on the greenway connection was, among other things, an impetus for this if my facts are straight.

    Parkridge, Old North Knox, and Fourth and Gill have independently been pursuing beautification of First Creek Greenway. It’s unfortunate the City has yet to match the neighborhoods efforts’ with some tangible effort on drafting a plan to connect Upper and Lower First Creek Greenways.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Tanner, you obviously know far more about it than I know. The greenway comment was based on a statement by Leslie Fawaz who either developed or helped develop the proposal. I’m not sure the source or age of her information. I was also unclear whether the organization was behind the push for the plan, so I said “members of the community.” I think Gigi Sanders, in particular, as a business owner there, pushed for it. That’s about the extent of my knowledge. My guess would be that you are right, the neighborhood associations are going to have to be the energy behind making any of this happen.

  3. The Area mentioned in this Article, is actually in the Edgewood Neighborhood (Edgewood/Park City Historic District). HENA (Historic Edgewood Neighborhood Association), has long sought the Development of our Business/Park Center. Edgewood Residents in the area Bounded by I-40 on the North, Hall of Fame Drive to the West, Fifth Avenue to the South and Bertrand Street to the East, rated that Area High on our Input to the recently Updated Central Sector Plan. We like “Parts” of this Plan. We would, however, prefer the Focus be on Development of the 1st Creek Greenway (along the Creek, not in the Streets) and a “Final” Solution to the “Blighted” SKM Site (Back Taxes $20K+). Edgewood is a “Historic” Neighborhood (H-1 Overlay) and we have Worked Hard to Honor Our “Legacy of George Franklin Barber” Archicecture. We are Proud of Our Neighborhood Progress and our Neighborhood Name, “Edgewood”. This “Plan” could Gain Support, but, remember, it would be in “Edgewood”, Parkridge is our Eastern Neighbor.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’m probably going to regret this, but I’m going to bite, just a little.

      The city of Knoxville maintains a list of neighborhood associations. You’ll find it here: http://www.knoxvilletn.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=109562&pageId=194862#e Parkridge is listed with the boundaries I described. The Parkridge Community Organization and the use of that name for the neighborhood are 33 years old.

      The name “Edgewood” was the name of George Barber’s company which produced many of the homes found throughout the area. “Edgewood” is not found on the list above. I say this to clarify why I use the name “Parkridge” and not “Edgewood.” I will continue to do so and, I think, not in error.

      I do not say this in order to begin an argument, Mr. Anderson. You’ve stated your view (twice) and I’ve stated why I do what I do. Perhaps we can leave it at that an allow others to make their own determination without confusing the issue further.

      • Alan, as a neighborhood observer who has run for a seat on Parkridge Community Organization’s board, allow me to offer an answer: Edgewood is an historic enclave within Parkridge. Other smaller developments within modern-day “Parkridge” community (a name made up in the 1980s to reflect the disparate communities bounded by I-40, Cherry Street, Magnolia, and 6th Avenue) include: Hazens Hill, Park City. I live in within the Parkridge Community’s boundaries, but also in Hazen’s Hill addition. There is no “homeowner’s association” for Hazen’s Hill. There is one for Historic Edgewood. Edgewood is fortunate to have two organizations focused on historic preservation.

      • Lynne Sullivan says

        There is a lot of confusion about the name of the neighborhood (Parkridge), the name of the H-1 Historic Overlay (Edgewood-Park City) within the neighborhood, the various subdivisions within the neighborhood (including Hazen’s Addition and Edgewood among others), and Park City. Edgewood was the name of George Barber’s subdivision that is encompassed within the H-1. Portions of other subdivisions also are in the H-1 (e.g., my Barber- designed home in the H-1 actually is in Hazen’s Addition subdivision). Park City is a much larger entity that at one time was an incorporated city, separate from Knoxville. Mr. Anderson has an unofficial organization of a few people that he chooses to promote for the Edgewood subdivision. The Parkridge neighborhood is indeed officially represented by the Parkridge Community Organization, for which I am a board member. We very much appreciate the excellent coverage Inside of Knoxville has given to our neighborhood. Thanks, Urban Guy!! Look for another home tour in October.

        • HENA was Chartered bt the State of Tennessee, in 2012, nothing “Unofficial” about that. We believe we best Represent Our Own 126 Year Old Neighborhood. We believe our “Community” is Park City (East Knoxville). Edgewood does not consider itself, “an Enclave in Parkridge”. We are Organized and we are not Going Away.

          • Plain old Knoxvillian who lives somewhere up in this here mess says

            Is this a royal “we?” I am starting to find it an affront that while I live in this Edgewood district and am purported to be represented by its (elected?) representation, I’ve yet to be approached by or welcomed by or in any way informed about it. Yet it purports to speak for me under the guise of what appears to be a demagogical yet also somehow royal “we.”

          • Sorry, if you were missed! For Information on HENA, go to their Website ( F you would like to Apply for Membership, write Historic Edgewood Neighborhood Association, Inc. ,P/O Box# 27038, Knoxville, TN 37927-7038. If you would like a Representative to Visit you, Email historicedgewood@att.net (attention: Membership Committee). Had you chosen to Identify Yourself and your Address, I would be Happy to Welcome you to the Neighborhood! Hope to hear from you soon.

  4. Looks good. The container business incubator is cool.

    Was there any mention of trying out the ideas with a temporary pop-up Better Block approach? http://youtu.be/ntwqVDzdqAU

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      No mention to me. I think the next move may be up to the community to push the idea with the city in order for any of it to become reality. I know some of them are interested.

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