Pace Dockless Bike Share, Bikes, Racks and Signage, Knoxville, February 2018
A year ago I welcomed our Big Ears guests back to an entirely different city, pointing out the amazing changes that had happened in our downtown area since the last time they’d visited. I was shocked at the changes and I only referenced what I’d written about. Sometimes looking at it all laid out in one spot, more effectively makes the larger point that we are a rapidly changing city.
Since it was helpful for all of us, I’ve decided to repeat what may become an annual column. So, welcome to visitors and regular readers alike, as we look at the business changes in the last twelve months in the downtown and near-downtown area.
You may already know some of the changes if you are visiting because you had to stay somewhere, and that place may have been one of the two downtown Knoxville hotels to open in the last year. The Tennessean, a luxury hotel located on the World’s Fair Park opened just after Big Ears last spring. Also opening this year is the latest incarnation of one of Knoxville’s historic hotels, the Hyatt Place at the Farragut.
If you ate at a downtown restaurant (or six) last year during the festival, you may find it missing, as several (Rita’s Ice, Holly’s Corner,Trio, Makers Donuts and Breadshed Cafe) closed since last year’s festival. While five closings might seem like a significant blow, the openings have more than kept pace and the quality of the openings continues to increase.
For a good meal, consider these openings from the last twelve months: The French Market was closed for their move last year, but the new location has proven to be a great boon to the business. Broadway Market and Elkmont Exchange opened on the north end of downtown, Landing House opened on the south side of the river and Cafe Vicolo opened down a small alley off Gay Street. Myrtle’s Chicken and Beer opened on Market Square just last week. If you want your choice of food trucks, we’ve now got Central Filling Station, a food truck park which will be open every day of the festival and just outside its footprint.
Finally, many of you enjoy taking a bicycle out for an urban spin and we’ve made that easier and more interesting this year. We’ve recently launched 200 bikes in or near downtown with our Pace Bike Share program which is ready for you to use during the festival just as fast as you can download an app. While you’re riding around, look for our new Kickstand Bike Repair Stations and if exploring trails is your style, we’ve Expanded Ijams and the Urban Wilderness, our massive network of preserved land and trails in south Knoxville.
It’s surprising for residents and periodic visitors alike to see all the amazing changes a year has brought – and we were pretty darn good in the first place, so this is the cream on the top. Have a great festival and whether you are a visitor or a long-term resident, get out and enjoy these amazing changes, but stay buckled, this ride is still rolling and the coming year promises to bring as many changes as ever.