A Possible Connection to the Arts District and Old City
Ed.: As has been the case in the past, David Denton joins us today with an exploration of a relatively simple way to connect the Arts District and Old City to the Gay Street/Market Square Area. Short of what we really need to do, restore the 200 block of Gay Street and tame Summit Hill, these ideas could serve as an interim until we have the will to do what is really needed. David, a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is an architect and urban planner with over 30 years of experience in the field. He was born in Knoxville and grew up in Sequoyah Hills and spent most of his career in California. He moved back to Knoxville several years ago. Here’s David:
Many visitors to downtown Knoxville walking along Gay Street headed north reach Summit Hill Drive and unable to see what is beyond decide not to proceed further and turn back. This is unfortunate because those visitors miss one of the best parts of downtown and unfortunate for the businesses that so desperately need more foot traffic.
This is an exploration of ideas to address this missing link. For visitors downtown there are basically two separate areas: Gay Street / Market Square and Arts District (100 Block) / Old City. The Arts District and the Old City are relatively small areas. By connecting the two through graphics and other communications each would be seen as a larger area. Shown here is an idea of what a joint graphics might be like.
There are a number of possible solutions for overcoming the barriers of Summit Hill Drive. One is shown here, which is to construct a gateway that would announce the entry into the Arts District and the Old City. But even before reaching Summit Hill Drive there are some improvements that could be made to increase foot traffic to the north.
Wayfinding signs on Gay Street direct pedestrians east on Summit Hill Drive to the Old City. Not only is this an unpleasant walk along a very busy street but it also bypasses the Arts District and the 100 block of Gay Street. Perhaps the City should consider altering those signs to direct people to The Old City via the Arts District. There could also be banners on the sides of the existing buildings indicating the Arts District and the Old City beyond.
One of the detriments to foot traffic is surface parking lots adjacent to the sidewalk. One idea to consider is to front these parking lots with free-standing show windows that would maintain a continuity and visual interest and be rented by adjacent businesses.
Shown here are three different ideas for the direction that a gateway design might take visually. The suggestion is that the gateway would be constructed in the median. The emphasis of the gateway design would be on the sides that are visually most apparent walking along the sidewalks of Gay Street heading north. By placing the gateway in the center median the crossing would not seem so far and would also give a place of refuge when caught between traffic lights.
Another important element in creating this pedestrian continuity is the future use the Country Music Park which is currently not very well utilized and mostly by dogs. It does very little to attract pedestrians to cross Summit Hill Drive. Perhaps it’s not the best place for a park or maybe the park could be made smaller and include a free-standing structure of architectural interest that would include a country music themed cafe with outdoor dining, a sort of beer garden that would show people activity.
Hopefully some organization with primary interest in the Arts District and the Old City would organize to take on the task of examining how this missing link might be filled. Perhaps a design contest for the gateway would create interest and possible funding for such an undertaking.