Revised Knoxville river walk plan includes more public space

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s been over two years since Mayor Madeline Rogero made the announcement for the south waterfront development project.

The huge complex will include apartments, restaurants and retail space set to occupy the old Baptist Hospital site. Developers released revised plans for the site after community members said they were concerned the site would include too many apartments and not enough shops and public space.

“I have noticed it for over a year now sitting there,” said April Jones.

Jones spends her lunch breaks every day at Volunteer Landing staring across the river at the site with the hospital sitting partially torn down for some time now.

“I’ve sat here every day at lunch and watched the whole building come down,” she said. “It’s an eyesore. It’ll be nice when they get it all cleaned up and stuff.”

Continuing Coverage: South Knoxville Waterfront Project

In October, developers requested changes to land use that would allow them to have more transparent glass at ground level. Community members said they were worried that the request means the developers could be planning to put residential units on the ground level instead of businesses.

Janice Tocher with the South Knoxville Neighborhood and Business Coalition said South Knoxville needs additional businesses. “For these stores to survive, it does take more people, more shops, more reasons to come across the river,” said Tocher.

Davis Architects went back to the drawing board. The final design for the 300 unit residential complex will now include more public space and more river walk features between Gay and Henley street bridges.

“They have submitted plans for site development and building permit so we anticipate before the year is out new construction will actually start. There is more than rock being moved around on this site,” said Knoxville’s Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel.

The new design includes 1,100 feet of river walk along the bluff for pedestrian and bicyclists. The pathways will be 20 to 30 feet wide and include benches, trash cans, bike racks and additional lighting.

Developers are also planning on including two plazas and a 37,500 square feet public event space adjacent to the Henley Bridge, with amphitheater seating and an interactive fountain.

“That’ll be really nice to be able to sit out and hear music or shows or something go on,” said Jones. “I might have to take a venture across the river.”

A small pocket park will be built on the east end of the greenway and between two of the apartment complexes.

“This is probably some of the most valuable real estate in the South,” said Knoxville Vice Mayor Nick Pavlis. “Just because of the water’s proximity to downtown. I mean it’s a beautiful piece of property that’s going to be an icon in Knoxville for years to come.”

City leaders expect construction on the new buildings to begin by the end of the year.

The residential complexes should be done by the end of 2016.

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