Downtowns are commonly the center of a metropolitan area. However, downtown Knoxville is not even close to the center of Knoxville’s population, and is not convenient to anyone. In an effort to correct this problem and re-center the city, Downtown West is about to be redeveloped and reclassified as The Official Downtown of Knoxville.
The current downtown area will be renamed Downtowne East, and most of the buildings are to be handed over to the University of Tennessee to allow for a campus expansion. The remaining buildings will be managed by local historic preservation societies, who have agreed to fund all maintenance of old, falling apart buildings, without any public assistance. The preservation groups have organized themselves into the Bohemian Rhapsody Society.
The plan to relocate Downtown Knoxville, arising from a letter to the editor of Knoxville’s alternative weekly publication Metro Pulse, gained momentum quickly among Knoxvillians. When asked, most businesses located in the current downtown area were thrilled to have a chance to get away from the odor of the river, and to be located closer to employees’ homes. Another popular attribute of this project is the opportunity to purchase or lease office space in new buildings with modern conveniences.
Downtown West currently consists of a decrepit shopping center (abandoned even by book warehouses), several restaurants and banks, a Target, and a movie theater.
The theater, which is owned by Regal Cinemas and shows art house movies, will provide a nice draw to the area. Target will be incorporated into the theater by a mixed-use development, consisting of retail shops, a rifle range, housing, and a parking garage.
The strip mall is scheduled for demolition, and the current occupants will have dibs on prime office space as it becomes available. A new interchange is to be built to route traffic from the interstate past O’Charley’s and into the new downtown area.
Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin next month, and construction crews are already gearing up to begin work. The plan was so popular it was rushed through city council voting in record time. McMackey and Associates were hired to create the initial design of the project, and their plan was perfect without any required revisions. Six charrettes were held, many pints were consumed, but all who were involved agreed that this was the most painless and effective way to rejuvenate Knoxville as a city.