North Central Street Changes Coming Soon – Meeting Thursday

Map of the Section of Central Street Under Discussion

Map of the Section of Central Street Under Discussion

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.


  1. Bill Myers says:

    With all of these projects there seems to be a lack of imagination or any real concept of protecting an areas uniqueness. The visions for Magnolia, Cumberland. Central all of them look disheartenly the same. I wonder if the Urna planners are not building the Equvakent ‘McMansions’ in gentryfing the city. It is all Looking cookie cutter to me. As a long time inner city resident I know change is enevitable and welcome but I also see dangers in destoying the unique fabric of what we have left.

  2. I hope consideration will be given to the fact that the Broadway viaduct will be under demolition/construction about the same time, shifting some traffic to Central. Hopefully the project area nearest the CBID will either be completed before the Broadway closure, or will be delayed until afterward.

  3. Tammy Keith says:

    Can anyone tell me why Knoxville and surrounding counties cut down all the trees while other cities leave as many trees as possible? I have just never understand that.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I think Knoxville is doing what it can to promote trees. There is a staff arborist whose whole job is to help promote sustainable trees.

  4. Rhonda Piland says:

    Linear parks, what used to be called tree lined avenues, are a wonderful thing. I would like to see more pocket parked like Krutch Park, that provide more free space and quiet away from the cars. Many current vacant lots are good candidates.

  5. mamakeegs says:

    It would be great if Knoxville had designated bike lanes. This summer I spent time in Berlin, Germany and everyone has a bike and rides 6 to 10 miles all over the city (long distances) every day. It was an awesome way to get around and It was so safe.The bike lanes were designated just for bikes so that if you were walking you knew to stay out of that lane. If Knoxville is going to be a sports/bike/craft beer town, which I think we are leaning towards since we are surrounded by art towns, we need to commit to making this all over the city. Yes, people don’t bike… but I think they would if they knew they were protected by a designated bike lane that didn’t put them in traffic.

  6. Bike lanes are no big deal. As an active Knoxville city bike rider, the sidewalks (which are legal to ride on) act as default bike lanes. There are few, if any, pedestrians. I rode from the Old City to Fountain City and back, some 16 miles including detours through the neighborhoods on Saturday afternoon on a bright shiny 75F day and encountered a total of 1 pedestrian in all that mileage. Knoxville is a walkable town, but no one does it.

    • Knoxville, yes. West Knox county, nooooooo

    • I don’t have any problem with bicycles on sidewalks where pedestrian traffic is low. But, legal or not, I wish riders would refrain from opting for the sidewalks downtown.

    • I’ve made the ride between Fountain City and downtown before, but I can’t say it’s a great experience – the area between the Mineral Springs road in Whittle Springs and Adair road in Fountain City is a nightmare on a bike (or on foot). You have to choose between Old Broadway, which has a narrow passage under the train tracks with only room for two cars, or to ride past the interstate exchanges where traffic never stops. I was hoping that the improvements made to that interchange would have incorporated a system for bikes and pedestrians to safely navigate all that, but from looking at the plans, they did not.

      Speaking of Whittle Springs – anyone know where exactly the spring was/is? I searched historical archives and Google Books for any information about the supposed spring in that area but never found any information. Google Maps doesn’t show any obvious creeks in the whole Whittle Springs valley area, so am I to assume that the ‘Whittle Spring’ was really just first creek, fed by the spring at the Fountain City resort up the road?

  7. It is going to be hell on the businesses there while these improvements take place.
    Hoping there will be access to commerce while this project is underway, until completion.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      It is always difficult. At least this corridor isn’t as dense with business and as heavily traveled as Cumberland, so I’m glad they are doing it now. But, yes, it will be difficult at times.

  8. Central is so unnecessarily wide that the city has lots of space to make improvements. I’m surprised they aren’t putting in protected bike lanes, but I guess that just isn’t a Knoxville thing. Pity.

    There’s no mention in the plans to improvements to the area under I-40. It seems like something creative could be done to improve the experience of walking under there.

    • S Carpenter says:

      Not sure what the term “protected bike lanes” means, but there are and will be designated bike lanes on Central St. The only part where the street is too narrow for them is in the couple of Happy Holler blocks.

      I’m not sure about your dismissive “not a Knoxville thing” either. Knoxville is dedicated to improving the infrastructure with bicycles in mind.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I hesitated to say it because I haven’t heard the plan discussed, but looking at the plans, it seems to me that Central gets much thinner, which, as you say, is a good thing. As for protected bike lanes, I’m not sure, though through that one block, it looked to me like it is diverted through the park – which is protected by trees.

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