KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There are sights and sounds buzzing all over Knoxville this summer. City officials gave a tour Monday afternoon aboard a KAT bus of projects happening right now.
The tour covered everything from the South Knoxville Waterfront development into apartments and a river walk, to the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project and revamping of streets and sidewalks throughout the city.
Bob Whetsel, with director of redevelopment, says tax incentives, utility upgrades and city streetscape improvements are helping, but private investors are the driving force behind the growth.
“Cumberland is a great example. We have a $17 million project; there is $145 million in private investment there. Most of what has happened downtown has been private investment, so we hope to be a catalyst we hope to guide it, but it’s the private money that’s making it happen,” Whetsel said.
There are also improvements in the works to Magnolia Avenue. Currently, the city is in the final stages of plans for splitting the area into four zones to implement projects including widening sidewalks and making a more welcoming transition from Magnolia to downtown.
“We know that’s going to be a trickling effect. A lot of times cities will put public investment first to kind of spread those private investments to come to this area and that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, deputy director of the redevelopment office.
To keep up with a growing city, KAT buses are adding more routes, including a free one on Cumberland Avenue to help people get through construction. Director Dawn Distler says ridership is up more than four percent from last year.
“I personally think it’s one of the most important things you have to do. The more you bring people into the city, you have to give them options,” Distler said.
“Success breeds success and downtown is on a good roll right now, and we hope to keep that going,” Whetsel said.
Whetsel says most of the major projects going on right now are on schedule and on budget.