By Sarah Baker
The City of Knoxville and authorities involved with the Cumberland Avenue Streetscape Project held a public meeting on Tuesday, September 25 at the University of Tennessee Visitor’s Center. The purpose of the meeting was to give business owners and community members a clearer understanding of the vision of the project, as well as to discuss issues such as property acquisition and right-of-way plans.
The anticipated launch of the redevelopment is 2013 “after football season” and, once started, is expected to take about 24 months to complete. According to Anne Wallace, project manager with the City of Knoxville, the $14.6 million project is funded 80 percent by the state and 20 percent by the city of Knoxville.
The project will run from the west side of Third Creek to just east of 17th Street. It will transform Cumberland Avenue from four lanes to three lanes with a median and increase the sidewalk area on each side of Cumberland Avenue.
Many businesses owners at the meeting expressed concern about the change in access to businesses because of the inability to make left turns.
One concerned business owner who spoke out at the meeting was Mike Ford, owner of Cumberland Avenue’s Penn Station East Coast Subs. “If you’re going to eliminate left-hand turns, how do you expect business to increase?” he asked.
Several other business owners expressed concern after the meeting, but had reservations about being quoted. Anne Wallace, project manager with the City of Knoxville, explained that people will have to be more intentional and plan ahead to get to a particular business.
Some citizens were concerned about how the presence of the homeless could downgrade the improvements, and Wallace mentioned some cooperation with Redeemer Church and also recommended businesses be added to KPD’s no loitering/trespassing lists. Others were disappointed that the wider streets will not include a bike path, and Wallace suggested that cyclists may prefer White and Lake Avenues so as not to have to compete with traffic.
David Harrell from Vaughn and Melton explained the process of acquiring the property. According to him, the segments of property being acquired are usually about five feet beyond the sidewalk. He said that if property owners’ don’t agree with the appraisals presented to them, they can have their own appraisals done. If a property owner and the city cannot agree, the city has the right to take the property through eminent domain and a judge or a jury would decide the property’s value.
City authorities, representatives from Vaughn and Melton, and representatives from CRJA Landscape Architects were on hand at tables with drafts for each segment of Cumberland being redeveloped. For more information visit www.cityofknoxville.org/cumberland.