Mayor Rogero, Ground Breaking for Regas Square, Knoxville, February 2017
Today I’ve got a bit of random ramblings. I see a lot of things as I walk around town. Some of them don’t fit neatly into an article, but I find them interesting, none-the-less. I probably am spotted on the street staring into the near-distance more often than I’d like to admit. I try to be aware of subtleties and the elements of life in the city that hide in plain sight – we just don’t notice them. Let’s take a look at a few.
The photo above is from last February. Regas Square seemed like an impossibility for our city when it was first announced. It’s big – 101 units, plus significant retail and parking. After the announcement, the months ticked by and it might have been easy for skepticism to grow. But then, in February, a year and four months after that first announcement, the mayor spoke and the grounds were parted – not by her words, but by the very large machine you see below. Take a walk in that direction if you haven’t recently. The enormity of the hole they’ve dug to plant that building will be lost once it is built. This was a big deal and we are the ones who will remember.
Construction of all types is interesting. I’m particularly drawn to the kind of work we’ll forget about for decades after it’s done. The next photograph shows infrastructure work being completed last winter on Clinch Avenue. The street was torn up, that saw did not sound pleasant and the weather was miserable. But that was a moment and now that pipe is under the street, the street has been paved and the workers whose names will not be attached to that job, have moved to other jobs. But their work will make life in the city possible for the decades.
The next two photos show work from this winter at two different locations. Both were announced long ago and no obvious action took place for an extended period of time. Then work began and, once underway, it’s moved quickly in each of these cases. Merchants of Beer should open very soon and the diner is looking quite different than any of us have seen it before. The KUB/Tombras Building has been fascinating to watch as various re-models and decades have been peeled away to show the bones of the building. The Tombras Group hopes to be in their new home by the end of this year.
I also have to mention our cool new trolley signs. I love the colors, the non-traditional shape and the insertion of the fact they are free. We have so many signs on the street it’s easy for one to look like another: KAT buses, Trolleys, No Parking, etc. These signs really stand out and make use of the trolleys a more clear proposition. And I have to give a shout-out to the trolley’s themselves and the fact they make their way around downtown. Urban Boy and Urban Girl love riding the trolley about as much as anything we do.
For Urban Boy, there is only one conclusion to a successful trolley ride: a stop at his favorite coffee (milk) house for a Cruze Farm milk and one of Meg’s chocolate chip cookies at Java. He takes off at the door like he owns the place. It’s so rewarding to see children embrace their city. And it’s important for them to love it after we are gone. The second picture below this paragraph was taken on one of our trolley trips to Java. That’s a Saturday morning crowd lining up for the Old City Whiskey Festival at Boyd’s. Each and every one of those people in line represents a $100 ticket. In Knoxville we don’t play – or when we play, we really play. I’m not sure which.
The next set of photos are from the last few days and represent things that make me happy. The first is a (semi-rare) photograph of my friend Jeff bringing Three Bears Coffee to Cafe Four. It makes me happy that we have such good local products, that good people like Jeff are quietly doing their good work and that local businesses support other local businesses. Not insignificantly, it makes me happy to be able to drink good coffee at our local restaurants.
The first photo below shows the HappyHealthySmart conference at the Square Room. For the last forty years or so of my life I’ve generally hated meetings, so why would this one make me smile? Because that’s a room full of smart local people taking the future of our city very seriously. So many people care about what happens next and recognize that it won’t happen well without some work on our part. I love that these people are tuned in.
The group of buskers pictured below have been here for several weeks and they are really good. And they aren’t alone in the category of really talented buskers to be found downtown, recently. I appreciate what they do when they do it well. Below that you see a couple of photos from this past weekend’s grand opening for Body and Mind Realign Chiropractic and Gratitude Bar. It was filled with people when I stopped in and I’m glad to see businesses in the Old City diversifying and building more of a critical mass. Stop in when you get a chance. The final shot in this set is of a pet adoption event at Rita’s Ice last weekend, another event that made me smile this weekend.
I’ll end with some “life in the city” photos. The first one below isn’t something you want to see when you look out your window. It’s what I saw a few weeks ago. Rather alarming to notice flashing lights through your window and look outside to see what looks like a raid and an arrest of some sort. The next photo is a best-case scenario when you see the first photo: the film crew filming for a television series. It was a shoot, not a raid. Made me happy. The final shot includes our pretty flowers and a man dozing. I guessed that he was homeless, though I’m not sure. It’s a reminder that in the midst of the cool things happening there are those among us who experience the same city in a very different way.