Comments on Magnolia Upgrade Plan
I did not see a lot of changes in the Magnolia Avenue plan from the April 2014 version. I didn’t attend the January meeting, so perhaps I missed something.
I do have some comments based on reviewing the documents online on my own.
First I want to address some of the recently promoted ideas concerning the "historically black community."
The neighborhoods along Magnolia Avenue are in fact "historically integrated" and it’s somewhat disparaging to see some promote the idea that my choice to live in East Knoxville is a threat to black livelihoods or black culture.
I’ve made a home on Chestnut Ridge in the Parkridge Community adjacent to Magnolia Avenue since 2007.
My home was built by a white man in 1935, who lived here with his wife Hazel and their adopted son. The 1940 census reveals many of his neighbors were of African American heritage when he built his home. Today, a few of my nearby neighbors include one hispanic family, two black families, two older white gay men, one white old timer, a white family with kids, a devout jewish guy, a devout muslim guy, a family of four, and the guy with the booming sound system and rims.
You can see why I’m surprised to learn that my community is being "whitewashed" by the proposed public investment in the hitherto crumbling Magnolia Avenue corridor.
Black or white, gay or straight, sinner or saint, all residents benefit from an upgrade to our area’s main transit route. Along with the "complete streets" concept that promotes physical activity, numerous studies have shown the benefits of street trees for reducing stormwater runoff – and I’ve read studies suggesting street trees not only clear the air, but improve people’s mental well being. I know I’m happier around trees.
That any stakeholder would refuse the addition of trees, bike lanes, and a more "livable" city is beyond my ability to understand.
I know there’s a lot of frustration about levels of both public and private investment in East Knoxville. I personally have concerns about the number of greenway miles and public green spaces in East Knoxville, with respect to population density and weighed against amenities in other areas of the city. There are certainly issues of crime, blight, and economic opportunities to address.
However, I can’t see how those important issues are addressed by opposing much needed "TLC" for Magnolia Avenue, one step of many towards reversing the trend of shuttering businesses on Magnolia.
With that discussion out of the way, let me just list some concerns I have regarding what I see in the plans – please forgive if any of these items were addressed in the in-person meeting that I did not attend:
I would like to be sure we’re protecting water quality in First Creek from both thermal and street chemical pollution.
I understand that Cumberland Avenue project has a large filter to handle stormwater and filter road pollution entering Third Creek. Is anything like that planned for First Creek?
Is there a "pedestrian refuge" in the media where the greenway will cross?
I’m a fan of reduced costs and energy efficienty, but in the artists’ rendering it looks like LED lights.
The older 2009 plan had some historically appropriate lighting in the artist’s rendering. What happened to that idea?
I’d like any lighting installed to reduce light pollution – and can you check out the "temperature" to go with a warmer light than a cooler light? Magnolia has a neat, amber glow to it now – putting in LED lights will completely change that to look more akin to "a strip mall in outer space."
Why are the traffic lights yellow in the artist’s rendering?
Who is going to care for the flowering plants pictured?
What will prevent the median plantings from becoming toast? Can you design some rain garden features in the median, or on the sides, to capture and slowly relase water?
The street trees at Hall of Fame Drive got replaced something like 3 or four times, really tragic given how much care goes into raising a good sized tree for planting. The trees that survived still seem to be struggling to take root in highly compacted, clay soil. What will prevent that from happening to the plantings on Magnolia Avenue?
Can you incorporate "green" features like pervious pavement, stormwater bump-outs, stormwater trench, more here: http://www.phillywatersheds.org/what_were_doing/green_infrastructure/tools
Can you try and incorporate "edible" plantings? For example, blueberries as shrub, service berry as a shrub / tree. I’m not a fan of ornamentals.
There is some interest in East Knoxville being the "arts and garden" district of the scruffy city. People who lived in the historic area gardened in backyards. They do today. The street should reflect "garden."
Right now it kind of looks like a generic streetscape. Try and add some character. See if you can put in some edible landscaping to address the food desert concern.
Maintaining those plantings and the green infrastructure could possibly create some of the job opportunities the more vocal activists are concerned about.
Make the street lamps solar powered and you have even more "green" infrastructure for skilled workers to tend.
Finally – if a streetscape upgrade is tough now – wait till you try your connector from Cherry to MLK which actually puts people out of a home. I commented back in 2014 that’s a bad idea – you’re just going to have people flying through a new thoroughfare. New streets don’t build community.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
I do think there’s room for improvement in the design details – but as the old saying goes – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.