A meeting will be held tomorrow afternoon (10/13) at Central United Methodist Church (201 E. 3rd Ave.) at 5:30 PM to discuss details regarding “the more than $5 million combined KUB and City infrastructure upgrade of North Central Street, from north of the Old City railroad tracks (near Depot Avenue) to Woodland Avenue,” according to a recent press release from the city. If you care about this main connecting corridor between the Old City and and Happy Holler (and a couple of blocks beyond), it’s an important meeting to attend.
Plans call for an immediate KUB project to “replace more than 8,800 feet of water main and 26 fire hydrants along 12 City blocks.” As was the case in the downtown proper area, the KUB work will be followed by streetscape projects along the route. Starting toward the end of this year, the project will include, “sidewalk improvements, new curbs, ‘bulb outs’ and other features to improve pedestrian safety; better-defined on-street parking; better-marked bike lanes; landscaping; and resurfacing.”
A linear park is planned, “between Pearl Place and Baxter Avenue – a block with enhanced landscaping, benches and other amenities.” I had assumed this meant the parking lot portion of that block, since Knox County Central, which some of us remember as the Sears warehouse occupies the Pearl Place, or eastern end of the block. It turns out the plans actually call for a strip of green space between the building and the street. Further, the park would extend down one block of Baxter adjacent to Three Rivers Market.
“This linear park will serve as a gateway to Historic Happy Holler,” said Redevelopment Deputy Director Anne Wallace. “Our aim is to reduce the amount of asphalt and create new green spaces. These improvements will make the corridor more inviting, and they’ll also make it safer for people who are walking or bicycling.”
Details of the plans for the park as well as the entire project may be found here, though the slide show is from last year, so changes may have occurred. Which is good reason to come out Thursday night and find out for yourself. If the reality resembles my reading of the plans, Central Street will be a much more comfortable place for pedestrians and cyclists and a safer place for everyone.
That said, these projects have the power to shift a quirky neighborhood into a more polished version of itself. Good sidewalks and improved safety, more greenspace and an aesthetically appealing streetscape can’t help but make the area more appealing to potential residents and businesses. I hope Happy Holler is able to be lifted up while retaining its Happy Holler-ness.