New Option for Restaurants and New Art for the City

Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

I’ve intended for three or four months to start a series about potential long-term changes which may come out of the necessity of our current pandemic. For the most part, trends that were already in place and that fit with safety during the pandemic, are more likely to stay. Large department stores were already in trouble, for example, and this likely has accelerated their demise. On the positive side, working from home has grown exponentially in recent years, fits with the pandemic, and its wider adoption probably got propelled by several years as a result.

Then there is the general trend, particularly in cities, toward capturing more space from automobiles and reassigning it to people. Specifically, as perhaps a subset of that trend, there has been a boom in carving out outdoor spaces for dining. This is where the virus meets the trend, as air circulation makes spread of the virus much less likely, outdoor dining seems a safer option. As indoor restaurant capacity is reduced in many cases to the point that the business model isn’t viable, this might offer a solution.

A number of cities have taken to the practice, allowing restaurants to expand outdoor areas in parking lots, on sidewalks or in parking spaces. Tampa was one of the first cities to experiment with the idea and they feel it was a success, so they’ve continued. They and other cities have closed entire streets to allow for more dining. There is indications that some of the street closures may become permanent. There are issues, of course, some noted in this New York Times article, for example, but largely the idea has been a success in places as diverse as Lousiville, Kentucky, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Atlanta and the entire state of Connecticut, where the governor got behind the effort.

Now, Knoxville is joining in by offering a stream-lined application process to add outdoor dining space in non-traditional spots. Some of the parking spaces have been closed near downtown restaurants in order to help with pickups. Maybe they could be converted to dining space. There’s lots of extra space on Market Square and Tomato Head’s Mahaste Vafaie is an enthusiastic supporter. Could the center portion of Market Square become a dining space used by all restaurants? There are many options on the square.

Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

The use at this point is simply temporary in order to allow for increased capacity. Mayor Kincannon put it this way, “Local restaurants took a huge financial hit this spring, and we want to help any way we can. My hope is that more open-air dining options will help businesses stay open. This move could also go a long way in helping both employees and customers feel safe as more people return to dining out.”

The program is limited to the city at this time and the spaces requested can be public or private outdoor spaces “included, but not limited to private parking lots, public parking spaces, and underutilized public and private property.” Vafaie has plans to request a permit and said, “This is another creative solution that could really help right now. The well-being and viability of our staff, customers and community continues to be a top priority. This will help us continue to serve everyone’s needs, as well as add to the charm of our beautiful downtown.”

The city requires all applicants to “secure written agreement from surrounding businesses, residents or property owners affected by the proposed expansion. Those granted a permit must also take measures to protect surrounding development, traffic patterns, safety issues and the environment.” Applications are available at https://knoxvilletn.gov/outdoordining.

Work is scheduled to complete today on a new 12×50 foot mural titled “Windows to the Smokies” by Megan Lingerfelt on the side of the Lerner Lofts building in Downtown Knoxville. Located on the prominent corner of Gay Street and Wall Avenue, the mural brings architectural elements from windows found all over the city (including St. John’s Cathedral, The Oliver Hotel, and several other historic buildings) to eye level, inviting the public to experience the blue haze of the Great Smoky Mountains reflected in them.


Megan works on Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

“Windows on the Smokies,” the latest mural by Megan Lingerfelt (who recently gave our Dolly a face-lift) and the Dogwood Arts Mural Program, has been completed along the side of Lerner Lofts on Wall Street, just around the corner from Strong Alley. Other artists are completing murals this summer and the total funded by Dogwood arts now totals 22 around downtown.

 

The mural is large, at 12X50 foot, and it covers a section of the wall which was often the target for taggers. The mural, “brings architectural elements from windows found all over the city (including St. John’s Cathedral, The Oliver Hotel, and several other historic buildings) to eye level, inviting the public to experience the blue haze of the Great Smoky Mountains reflected in them. In addition to Dogwood Arts, support for the project was also provided by the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, and the Lerner Lofts Homeowners Association. 

Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

“The Dogwood Arts’ Mural Program provides artist stipends to cover supplies, equipment rentals, anti-graffiti coating, and other needs related to the creation of new artwork or the restoration of an existing piece. Dogwood Arts accepts artist applications to work in the alley on a semi-annual basis.” The next round of applications will launch on August 3rd and are due by October 5th, 2020. You can get an application here.

In the meantime, check out the mural and consider taking a walk around the city to find the windows illustrated there. We have an amazing number of beautiful windows and other architectural features we tend to overlook. The mural is not only attractive, it’s another way to point out the charm and beauty our city has to offer.

Windows to the Smokies Mural by Megan Lingerfelt, Lerner Lofts, Wall Avenue, Knoxville, July 2020

Windows to the Smokies 

  1. The Holston Building 531 S Gay St 2. Awaken Coffee 125 W Jackson Ave 3. Blackhorse Pub 430 S Gay St 4. The Oliver Hotel 407 Union Ave 5. Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens 26 Market Square 6. Sterchi Lofts 116 S Gay St 7. Pryor Brown Garage 322 Church Ave 8. Jacks of Knoxville 133 S Gay St 9. Vow’d Weddings 11 Market Square 10. Phxl 625 S Gay St 11. Knox Co. DMV 300 Main St. SW 12. Old City Java 109 S Central St 13. Bacon + Co Inc 200 W Summit Hill Dr 14. Lerner Lofts 403 S Gay St 15. Tailgate 23 Market Square 16. Howard H Baker Jr. Courthouse 800 Market St 17. Emporium Center 100 S Gay St 18. The Holston Building 531 S Gay St 19. East TN Historical Society and Museum 601 S Gay St 20. St John’s Cathedral 413 Cumberland Ave 21. Howard H Baker Jr. Courthouse 800 Market St 22. Babalu 412 S Gay St 23. Miller’s Building 445 S Gay St 24. Visit Knoxville 301 S Gay St

Comments

  1. I hope tag gets don’t ‘ tag ‘ it. Looks to nice to have to redo. Great Improvement. Put up cameras to catch taggers.

  2. Outdoor dining is the secret weapon of urban neighborhoods. Eating outside in a suburban parking lot is unappealing, but a public space like Market Square is perfect.

  3. I can foresee in the future more of the Central filling Station areas being constructed to be used by food trucks, it’s outdoors and you have a diverse selection of food to select from. Any large parking areas or flat surfaces could be utilized that would be great for outdoor dining in the late evening and at night, rain permitting and earlier during spring and fall months. I believe Farragut is constructing something similar to this on Kingston Pk at Campbell Station Rd.

  4. Robyn McAdoo says

    The increasing trend of indoor open-air and outdoor dining makes for a much safer environment. A challenge is finding pockets of outdoor space in denser areas like downtown to provide for these larger patios. Open air indoor dining like they have at Simpl on Sevier Avenue are successful.

    As for the mural, great work, Megan! It is a beautifully-executed, thoughtful design. I’d love to hear how the idea of using different windows from around town evolved.

  5. This is a beautiful mural and I love that it’s based on windows in the area. Can’t wait to see it.

  6. Nina D Reineri says

    The mural is absolutely stunning, we went by and saw it yesterday. And in Europe they very often close the streets and bring dining outside onto the sidewalks (often with music). It’s a beautiful way to enjoy dining and I’m hoping this takes off. I think even in a parking lot it would be an improvement and a win win. Now if the temps could just drop 10 degrees so we can enjoy sitting outside!!

  7. There’s no reason not to close a few blocks of Gay Street in the evening to create a pedestrian mall and dining space. Many other cities have done this, and it is a common practice in Europe.

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