Open Streets Moves East – The Clouds Part

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

It was a slow start for Open Streets Knoxville this past Sunday. Rain had fallen all morning and after walking from home to the route on Magnolia, there was a notable absence of people. To be fair, I was a few minutes early, and I was soon joined by my friend Kristen, but as we walked down the middle of the road, it felt a bit eerie. Sort of post-apocalyptic.

Slowly that changed as vendors and others set up along the road and people began tentatively entering the streets. I was reminded of the first Open Streets Knoxville in which people could be seen glancing about as they left the sidewalks as if to ask, “Is this really ok?

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

We met the Appalachian Puppet Pageant, the fun parade organized by Cattywampus Puppet Council. Local students made most of the puppets in the parade and many of them joined the parade. A number of people simply walked along or biked along. It felt one part community parade, one part Pride Parade and one part just a crazy, creative and delightful burst of fun.

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

From stilt walkers to full-body and partial puppets and puppet heads, to people simply strolling or biking along, it was great fun and made the Open Streets event start to feel festive. Kristen got a bear hug from not-your-average bear. Creatures both recognizable and not passed by. One of them look a lot like Kelley Segars and another looked a lot like a great Tracy Jackson puppet. We loved the drums and trombone. The snake and many other puppets were exceptionally creative. The Sandsation Dance crew added flair, as always.

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

I think the experience was altered a bit, for me, from previous Open Streets due to the fact that I didn’t have children in tow. That said, Kristen and Paige Travis doing double dutch was a pretty good substitute. We talked to John and Karen and admired their fancy new e-bikes which, Karen would like me to point out, do require pedaling!

Dreambikes drew a lot of attention to their booth and the connect four game got a lot of attention. I think maybe more people cycled for this one and it was perfect for that – largely flat and a very wide street. A massive chess set drew some brave challengers and line dancing was a popular stop – particularly, it seems, for the women.

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Uni-cyclists, skateboarders and Hard Knox Roller Girls also added to the flow, though it seemed the crowds, like those at the other events of the weekend didn’t match the previous iterations of the event. The rain, no doubt contributed, though the clouds parted as the event progressed. The wideness of the road also likely made the crowds seems smaller than they were. But it was fun and my last image was of Last Days of Autumn in full party mode.

Did people stay away because of long-held beliefs about Magnolia? Did the community support the event? I’m not sure. I do know that, as open street events are supposed to do, this one helped me focus on the street in a way I’d never done as I drove along in my car. My trips to Magnolia usually involve a quick stop at R.T. Clapp which I’ve used (along with the Oak Ridge location) since sometime in the early 1980s for my car repair and maintenance.

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

While there are clearly blighted sections, empty lots, abandoned buildings and sidewalks and roads needing love, there’s also a lot there to work with. The street has a long and notable history about which Jack Neely recently wrote extensively. There are attractive homes, or buildings originally built as homes, some of which you see pictured here. The four-plex building pictured has to be one of the few in existence in the city. It’s worth a walk, if you have the chance to take it and it’s a short walk from the heart of downtown and just around the corner from the Old City.

So, what’s next for Magnolia and for Open Streets? The controversial Magnolia Corridor Plan presented a year-and-a-half ago has not been implemented, though money has been proposed in the mayor’s most recent budget to start work. Changes will likely come slow and not without difficult conversation. Any improvements will come at a price to what has been and we’ll probably have conversations on this space and elsewhere about the issues of gentrification.

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, May 2017

Open Streets? It’s headed for south Knoxville this fall. Precise routes have not been officially announced, but it looks like it will be another great event. Great thanks to Bike Walk Knoxville, for keeping these events going. They change the way we see our streets, our communities and ourselves.

A few programming notes:

First, I’ll have many more photographs of the Open Streets event on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page sometime later today or tomorrow.

Second, with this article, I will begin my customary summer slowdown in order to have an opportunity to spend more time with family and generally appreciate a more languorous pace during the hotter months. I’ll likely travel a bit and when I do, I’ll share it with you here, so we can all vicariously slip out of the city together. I’ll post again on Friday and then I’ll hit two to three times a week for a while, rather than every day. Of course, the 10 Day Planner will roll on each Sunday.

Finally, and speaking of Sundays, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off from Knoxcentric: Powered by Inside of Knoxville on WUTK, 90.3, Sundays at 10:00 AM. Co-host JJ Pershing will keep things rocking along, so definitely tune in. I’ll “see” you back on the radio in three weeks.

PS. Happy Bob Dylan’s Birthday, everybody. Remember: Celebrate safely.

Comments

  1. Johnetta Whitmire says

    I knew nothing about the “Open Streets” event and many people didnt know.
    There should be a better way to get the information out to communities. I live in the Morningside community and we have a homeowners association.

    • The City’s Office of Neighborhoods puts out a weekly newsletter via email that you can sign up for by visiting http://eepurl.com/b2Rk9T. I know that they announced Open Streets via this newsletter multiple times. Also, I believe Alan posts weekly calendars.

  2. Tinah Utsman says

    Thanks for covering Alan! I missed due to a graduation party I photographed, so nice to see coverage of event! tru

  3. Thanks for the recap. I biked over to Open Streets and enjoyed the activities and seeing friends. I thought the turnout was lower than previous events. Heard grumbling over nonprofits having to pay fee to participate as well as the the threatening weather caused the drop. Good point made about the great width of Magnolia and how crowds were more dispersed.

  4. I enjoyed biking over to Open Streets from downtown and riding around the neighborhood. Spent a long time exploring Washington Ave, Jefferson Ave and Woodbine Ave. Lots of cool craftsman homes to see, some meticulously restored.

    Magnolia itself is so ridiculously wide that I doubt it will ever be a decent pedestrian environment; the scale is simply all wrong. Too much like walking along an interstate highway. It might be best to let it be the through-road that it’s designed to be, and forget about notions of commercial uses strung out along the sides. In other words, don’t try to force it to be a “stroad”: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2013/3/4/the-stroad.html

    • Josh Shaffer says

      I really think it’s acting like a “stroad” right now but could become a very nice street instead. The overall width of Magnolia Ave. should be seen as a good thing in the sense that the city has room to improve the street within the existing right-of-way. If you compare it to Broadway, which widens and narrows multiple times as it stretches out to I-640, Magnolia has real potential to be an awesome experience for pedestrians and bikes for its entire length. The same “linear park” design that is being implemented on Central Ave. could easily happen for miles of Magnolia Ave. (if it wasn’t a state controlled road.)

  5. Urban Guy you are the single best source of news this town has to offer, especially since the news sentinel sold out and seems to only focus on advice columns and crime and the Mercury went biweekly and we will miss your daily updates, as usual in the summertime. But I hope you have a great summer spending more time with friends and family. You deserve it with how hard you work for the people of Knoxville.

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.