Blog Archives

Utility Pole Replacement on Washington Avenue at Mitchell


On August 24, I walked my dog along the south side of Washington Avenue at Mitchell Street towards the First Creek Greenway.

I took a moment to photograph a section of the sidewalk that has some construction debris left by a KUB contractor installing new composite utility poles recently.

I am attaching the photo of the scene looking West; in the foreground, you can see where crews left a mound of broken concrete and clay where an older wooden utility pole was removed to make way for the newer composite utility pole.

KUB also recently used the vacant lot adjacent to the sidewalk as a temporary detour around Washington at Mitchell while underground utilities were installed at the intersection, and a lot of gravel was left on the sidewalk, also visible in the photo between the utility pole and the railroad tracks.

My experience is KUB contractors pride themselves in leaving a work site in "equal or better condition" than what was found prior to starting work. I don’t feel this work site meets that standard.

I’d hoped to see a follow up visit in the interceding time since the construction work, but it seems unlikely at this point. I realize the infrastructure was not in great shape prior to KUB’s work, yet I don’t think that should excuse contractors from making an effort to tidy up their work site.

I wonder if you could direct me to someone with whom local community leaders might speak concerning the condition of worksite and KUB contractor responsibilities regarding clean-up of the site?


Tanner Jessel
1026 N. Olive St.
Knoxville TN 37917

(c) 865-898-0199

Models of Success for Knoxville Streetcar

Hi Dawn,

I hope you’re doing well and enjoying this interesting July day.

I wanted to pass on a post I made today on the Parkridge Community Organization’s Facebook group:

On July 25, Tuscon, Arizona opened a 3.9 mile streetcar linking a hospital, downtown, and University. Cost: $200 M. City Paid: 26.6 M. Fact: $800 M in public/private investment along streetcar line since project start in 2010. Food for thought: Gay Street Bridge to South Knoxville is 4.2 miles from Chilhowee Park / Knoxville Zoo along Magnolia Avenue.

More details are here:

Sun Link Streetcar in testing.

SunLink Streetcar in Tuscon, Arizona

This reminds me of similar news from Charlotte, where the “Charlotte Lynx” Blue Line was reported to have generated “nearly 10,000,000 square feet of new commercial and residential development along its route” (9.6 miles). See <>.

Charlotte Blue line transit car and station.

Charlotte Blue line station.

I’ve mentioned this before – but “Park Avenue” was designed as a streetcar suburb. With the precedent for economic activity generated by streetcars, and momentum of economic activity downtown, I think it’s smart to begin exploring the return of rails on Magnolia. Like Charlotte and Atlanta, Knoxville can – and should – be a leader in the Southeast for public transportation infrastructure.



Jackson Avenue Redevelopment

Sharing my comments in response to a survey from the City of Knoxville:
The City of Knoxville seeking public ideas and input for redevelopment of City-owned properties on the 400 and 500 blocks of West Jackson Avenue, including the Jackson Avenue Parking Lot and the site of the former McClung Warehouses. Please give us your thoughts on any or all of the following questions:

1. USE: What kind of development would you like to see along that corridor? i.e., residential, retail, office, other?

Office space at ground floor leads to closed shops in the evening. There should be an emphasis on businesses at ground floor open in the evening when people are free to be downtown. This can create an inviting corridor that safely conveys pedestrians from the Old City towards World’s Fair Park and vice-versa. The low volume of traffic makes a good opportunity for window shopping and patios.
USE: What kind of development would you like to see along that corridor? i.e., residential, retail, office, other?

2. FORM: What architectural and design characteristics are important to you? What should the development look like? How should it relate to its surroundings? i.e. a few big buildings, many smaller buildings, a mix?

With the loss of the McClung buildings, there’s an opportunity to incorporate modern design elements. The Knoxville Convention Center’s World’s Fair Park facade is a good template for incorporating light weight design elements that can balance the industrial heft of Jackson Avenue’s border with the rail yard and Interstate viaduct. All design should consider that the area is highly visible from the Interstate and may provide many passers-by their only impression of Knoxville. Public art such as murals, mosaics, or colored lighting cast on interesting metalwork is highly appropriate.
FORM: What architectural and design characteristics are important to you? What should the development look like? How should it relate to its surroundings? i.e. a few big buildings, many smaller buildings, a mix?

3. PUBLIC AMENITIES: What kinds of public amenities would you like to see incorporated into private redevelopment of the area?

This formerly was a warehouse district for loading and unloading via rail. The L&N station and Southern Railway formerly provided regional transportation for Knoxville. Jackson avenue’s proximity to abandoned rail infrastructure makes it an ideal connecting “hub” for a local heavy rail system connecting to the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad’s lease, which extends to John Sevier Highway along the French Broad, and reaches deep into South Knoxville as far as Ijams Nature Center. A high speed rail link from Atlanta to Chattanooga to Knoxville may someday be an option – Jackson will be the hub for transportation as it was before. This possibility should be not only preserved but actively pursued.

4. OTHER COMMENTS: Anything else you would like to add?
The space between the railroad and Jackson should incorporate a greenway that travels *under* Gay Street , parallel to the railroad right-of-way, and *under* Broadway to connect to World’s Fair Park. Jackson at Gay Street should provide a welcoming atmosphere for interpretation of Knoxville’s “underground” rather than the frightening scene presented today. TDOT needs to be more open about their designs for the Broadway viaduct so the public can provide input.

Feedback on Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Plan

Hello Dawn,

Thanks for the note.

Also great to see you in action last night.

The slide sharing site I mentioned is called “”

When I used to build web sites for a living, one of my favorite features was that you can take a powerpoint slide deck, upload it to the site, and then get some code to insert into your Web page to provide an interactive presentation.

Or you can just view the presentation on the slideshare site.  Works great on mobile devices, too.

Here are some examples –

I’m sending those two particular links because the proposed streetscape enhancement is is exciting, but I feel like we’re taking another step away from what “Park St.” used to be – and that is a dual track light rail public transit system from downtown to the zoo.  After the meeting last night, I dug around in online photo archives to find out of my favorite photos – Chilhowee Park with tree-lined light rail that looks straight out of the English countryside. Here’s that photo:

Chilhowee Park, Knoxville Tenn

Entrance to Chilhowee Park, Knoxville, Tenn

I’m also disapointed the consultant’s presentation did not start by taking a moment to reflect on the rich history of East Knoxville.  This oversight echoed throughout the consultant’s work, from a stylistic perspective to a practical perspective (for example, displacing residents to extend Cherry Street to MLK, when the same connector already exists at Olive Street). Further, I felt the consultant did not effectively engage the public for input in the earliest stages of the design process.  I overheard remarks that the consultant “did not walk around to get a sense of the neighborhoods.” That too is a shame – since in strolling past homes built a century or more ago, you get the sense there is a story to tell here – and diverse personalities to convey.  The consultant’s plan failed to capture these characteristics of the community.

Many residents of my own East Knoxville community see the area as Knoxville’s “Parks and Gardens” district. I found the consultant’s concepts overly generic and therefore at odds with the unique, richly storied community of East Knoxville.”Parks and Gardens” is a designation quite apt, with the Zoological Gardens, Botanical Gardens, and myriad parks and gardens in the area. These attractions were all part of why Magnolia was once known as Park Street and is today “as wide as an interstate,” in the consultant’s words. In the old days Knoxville Traction Company trolley cars rolled from the old car barn at the current KAT facility out to Chilhowee Park.

If we go forward with this streetscape plan as is, then we’ll be taking another step away from this past. This is unfortunate, as it is an affirmation of the abandonment of a transit oriented community design the community sprung from in the first place. Also, in terms of wayfinding – nothing is more clear to me than a line of track. Even in an uneasy environment like a dingy subway platform, trains running on time is comforting.  I can see out-of-town families starting their day at Market Square confidently catching a Downtown trolley to a Magnolia light rail terminus for a quick visit to the Zoo.

Charlotte laid track for their LYNX system for 9 miles. Magnolia from Knoxville Station to city limits is less than that, something like 6.  I can’t think of a community more deserving of transit infrastructure investment or a corridor more appropriate than East Knoxville.  A re-born transit line from downtown to the city limits at the Holston River could connect to an AMP style “fast bus” jetting travellers down John Sevier Highway towards McGhee Tyson Airport.  The County has always wanted to develop East Knox County – collaboration with the city on transit might play a key part in that.  Future collaboration with Sevier County might extend the transit line down Asheville Highway to Exit 407, Smokies Stadium, Bass Pro Shops, and the planned Dumplin Creek shopping attraction, not to mention connecting to the existing transit hub in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.

I’m grateful for the energy and attention the consultants brought to this project.  But I’m sad to think that if we take a step forward on this, we’re taking yet another step away from a proven, transit oriented design. Worse, we’re limiting our options to return to transit-centric design in the future.

On a related note – it sounds like Linden avenue would be another great choice for a “neighborhood greenway.”

Thank you for your invitation to share my thoughts with you. I hope the slideshare site proves helpful.  I’ll likely reflect further with additional review of the material shared last night.


Parkridge / Magnolia Corridor / Woodbine “Neighborhood Greenway”

Something I’d like to suggest for a Magnolia corridor development plan is a Woodbine Avenue “Neighborhood greenway.”  Woodbine is a low volume residential corridor connecting Caswell Park to Chilhowee Park and the Knoxville Zoo.  There are already street signs highlighting the route.
However, there is not a direct tie-in from the Caswell Park Greenway to Woodbine, and there one dangerous crossing at the intersection of Woodbine and Cherry Street.
Neighborhood Greenways are very popular in Portland, Oregon as “residential streets with low volumes of auto traffic and low speeds where bicycle and pedestrians are given priority.”
A neighborhood greenway would be very easy to accomplish – essentially adding markings on the pavement, traffic calming to deter motor vehicle thru-traffic, clear signage, and improved crossings.
Here’s a link to Portland’s page –
Traversing historic Parkridge and Park City, Woodbine is the ideal thoroughfare for Knoxville’s first “Neighborhood Greenway” to connect   Caswell Park and the Knoxville Zoo. The PCO has already expresssed interest in making the neighborhood more accessible to cyclists – and hopes to have the Tour de Lights visit this year.  A neighborhood greenway on Woodbine ​would be a great first step to a more bike-friendly Parkridge.