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East Tennessee Region’s Resources and Tools
The Plan East Tennessee Playbook is a high-level roadmap to ensure the East Tennessee region remains beautiful, becomes healthier and offers pathways to success for residents. The Playbook is the result of several years of work and the efforts of over 30 organizations and thousands of people from the five-county PlanET East Tennessee region.
The Playbook is grounded in research, analysis, and extensive public input. The strategies highlighted build on many successful local initiatives and incorporate new ideas generated during public input. Some of the strategies require regional collaboration; others can be pursued by local communities now or in the future. All of the strategies are entirely voluntary and are intended to serve as a guide for communities as they plan for a more prosperous future. The following tools and resources are products of the Plan East Tennessee regional partnership and their work with East Tennessee residents. For more information, please contact the PlanET Regional Partnership.
This report includes a collection of livability ratings for different aspects of the five focus areas, and provides a summary of major trends and issues in the region today. The report is oriented to region wide issues, but information is also provided for individual counties and some communities that make up our region. Information is drawn from the larger PlanET Existing Conditions Memo, two rounds of Community Surveys, a recently published Health Impact Assessment, public- and private-sector data sources, and findings from PlanET Working Groups, all available on the PlanET project website.
Low Impact Development: Opportunities for the PlanET Region
East Tennessee’s iconic water resources are a sustaining economic, social, and environmental asset. These resources are vulnerable to impacts from prevailing development patterns in the region, human activities, and existing stormwater infrastructure. Each increase the quantity of polluted stormwater runoff draining to region’s streams, rivers, reservoirs, and groundwater resources, compromising their health and the health of the communities they sustain. With the Plan East Tennessee Region’s population poised to grow forty-three percent by 2040, reliance upon these water resources will increase while their health is further threatened by expanding development. Low Impact Development methods proposed in this publication off er existing and expanding communities an enhanced approach to watershed planning, community design, and site development that avoids, minimizes, and manages impacts to the region’s shared water resources.
Equity Profile: Opportunity, Access, Equity
This report takes a root-cause approach to segregation, concentrated poverty, and access to opportunity and lays a foundation for describing our region in a way that can be tracked into the future to see how things change over the next few generations. Based on data compiled for this report and for the larger PlanET project, it is demonstrated that access to opportunity provides a foundation for the success of individuals—employment, good health, safe neighborhoods. And lack of access to opportunity not only holds individuals back from contributing the most to our region, it causes extra stress on our system resources.
Greenway Guidelines for East Tennessee
Greenway trails are places for many transportation alternatives, including walking, bicycling, and travel by horseback. They are also opportunities for preservation of our region’s cultural heritage and environmental quality. The new PlanET book “Greenway Guidelines for the East Tennessee Region: Recommendations for Water, Rail and Roadside Trails in Regional Landscapes” provides a brief introduction to greenway corridor design; illustrates road, rail and waterside corridor conditions typical to East Tennessee; and offers before-and-after visions of greenways in urban, suburban and rural East Tennessee landscapes. The guide also provides easy-to-use visual indexes to assist in the selection and design of trail crossings, surface materials, signage, buffers, barriers, borders, lighting, and trailside amenities.
Road Diets in the PlanET Region
Road diets are a way to improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation system. A road diet narrows or eliminates travel lanes on a street or highway to make more room for pedestrians, bicyclists and parking. In addition to creating room on the street for other uses, road diets also increase safety for drivers and can improve the flow of traffic. This project describes the road diet concept and provides information about current and proposed road diet projects in our region.
During the PlanET process, we heard from local governments and residents interested in making streets safer and more active for all users, including drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and businesses. The Community Leadership Team selected Lenoir City’s downtown for a demonstration project, which included the need for a road diet as part of the revitalization plan. Since other areas in the region have looked at and/or are embarking on road diets in their communities, a project concentrating on their applicability to the PlanET region has been provided. The Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission and Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization staffs contributed to this synthesis of local road diet research and applicability. This project looks at the road diets under way in Knoxville on Cumberland Avenue and Central Street, as well as those conceptualized through the demonstration projects of PlanET, such as Lenoir City’s Broadway and Townsend’s U.S. 321.
Regional Greenway Corridors
Greenways are places for walking and bicycles. They are also opportunities for preservation of our region’s cultural heritage and water quality. This project envisions five greenway corridors and the places along them that can be created, restored and preserved.
Throughout the three-year PlanET process, we heard from local governments about their interest in promoting greenways. The Community Leadership Team selected one greenway corridor in each of the five counties. A class of Architecture and Landscape Architecture students from UTK divided into teams to study the selected corridors and explore the greenway opportunities. Individual students then designed their own projects along the greenways. Community representatives were invited to review the student work throughout the semester.
The chosen greenways include: Bull Run Greenway in Paulette (Union County), Greenback to Louisville Greenway (Loudon and Blount Counties), Alcoa to Louisville (Blount County), Lake City to Briceville (Anderson County), and Second Creek in Knoxville (Knox County).
Centers and Corridors
This project is built around the premise that future jobs and population growth need not be the typical sprawl that has characterized regional growth. A University of Tennessee urban design team looked to places in Knoxville that will dramatically change over the next 30 years, and created a vision for new housing and work places while protecting the region’s rural and natural landscapes. Increased development in Bearden, Burlington, East Town, West Town, Pellissippi/I-40/75 and Downtown is explored in this project. As proposed, these new centers for growth could be significant in stemming suburban sprawl. More than 21,000 people could be housed and 34,000 new jobs could be located in these centers. In addition, the character of these places – quality housing, offices and shopping within an easy walk, ample public space, and enhanced public transit – will result in attractive locations to live, work and play.
Population and Employment Projections Report
The success of traffic forecasting, and more broadly, transportation planning, depends in no small part on the reasonableness and credibility of the socioeconomic forecasts on which it is based. Moreover, the reality of demographic and economic forecasting is that judgments must be made. Most mass producers of projections simplify this process by making the exact same judgments for all of the areas they are forecasting. For example, they may make the assumption that fertility rates in all counties will eventually converge with nationally projected rates; whereas, in reality there may be numerous counties where there is no historical evidence of convergence and there likely never will be. Superior forecasts can be derived by recognizing specific local historical conditions and incorporating them into the forecasting assumptions. Out of recognition of these facts, as a part of BLA’s contract with the Knoxville TPO to update its regional travel model to a new 2010 base year, BLA was also tasked with developing local socioeconomic control total forecasts. These control totals will assist the TPO in developing future land use scenarios for use with the travel model for traffic forecasting and for more general planning for the Eastern Tennessee region.
East Tennessee Region’s Demonstration Projects
Each East Tennessee community is unique, but the challenges they face are something we share in common. Whether its a revitalizing a struggling main street, capitalizing on fallow industrial and commercial land or managing stormwater runoff, the opportunities to make the region stronger are abundant.
To that end, diverse partners from across the region have come together to share their solutions though the creation of transferable projects, designs and plans that will serve as implementation models for neighboring communities. These projects comprise a foundation for future action.
Downtown Maynardville Revitalization
This project results in a 20- to 30-year master plan that focuses on the impact of Maynardville Highway (TN-33) on Maynardville’s downtown. Its goals are to help promote economic development, increase the City’s visibility from Highway 33, and make the town more visitor- and pedestrian-friendly. Other suggested improvements include traffic calming, courthouse renovations, downtown beautification, adding sidewalks, preservation of historic buildings, and placing an emphasis on Maynardville’s deep history of country music, including playing music by locals Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins downtown during the daytime. Community input also showed a strong desire to prevent the development of large-scale commercial and industrial buildings.
Seven Islands State Birding Park
The Seven Islands State Birding Park (formerly Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge) is a 360-acre wildlife sanctuary located less than 20 miles east of Knoxville on former farmland along the French Broad River. Though designated as a wildlife sanctuary, the property offers low-impact recreation opportunities to the public. Its recreational assets include wildlife observation, hiking, and a small boat launch. Home to many species of birds, fish, and mammals, the site also functions as an educational and research facility for land use and habitat management techniques.
Downtown Lake City Revitalization
A design team from the Community Design Center of East Tennessee created a Master Plan for downtown Lake City that recognizes the City’s unique historic character and promotes infill development and great walkability to draw people back downtown.
Lake City was originally known as Coal Creek. It was the site of the Coal Creek War of 1891-1892, which resulted when miners rebelled against the state law that allowed convict labor to replace them. The rebellion ended in the miners’ favor with the state ending the program. Two infamous mine explosions in 1902 and 1911 killed 268 men. Coal Creek Coal Company, the oldest mining company in the state, closed in 1955. The completion of Norris Dam in 1936 by the Tennessee Valley Authority spurred the town to change its name from Coal Creek to Lake City to capitalize on the project. Completion of Interstate 75 in the 1970s led to commercial activity moving near the interstate and a decline in the downtown. Today the town has two distinct districts: the newer commercial developments along the interstate and the original residential and commercial core along the railroad tracks and Main Street. The focus area for this project was Main Street (U.S. Highway 25W) as it passes the existing library, baseball field and into downtown Lake City.
The Community Design Center, with the help of volunteer professionals, created a site plan that reflected the community input that was gathered through a public meeting on September 19, 2013, at the City Hall. The master plan stops at Fourth Street, but the proposed improvements can easily continue through out the downtown.
Alcoa and Maryville Redevelopment
This project re-envisions the commercial strips, shopping plazas and mid-20th-century neighborhoods of the Cities of Alcoa and Maryville. It generates ideas for connecting walkable, bikeable neighborhood streets with nearby offices and shops. It also suggests opportunities for infill development and green infrastructure.
Elements of the project include a redesigned public space near the Blount County Library, a mixed-use redevelopment plan for Midland Plaza, a mixed use concept for Lindsay Street, and a master plan for the entire Alcoa and Maryville area.
Downtown Lenoir City Revitalization
This project produced a phased downtown master plan for Lenoir City along the historic core of Broadway (U.S. 11), a road diet proposal, and several new building projects designed to spur the redevelopment of downtown as a vibrant, economically sustainable, walkable mixed-use destination. In the short term, a road diet provides a dedicated turn lane, bike lanes and increased on-street parking, with a later phase to include wider sidewalks, vegetated medians and street tree plantings. Long-term proposals include a museum and the preservation of historic structures highlighting Lenoir City’s history as a cotton mill town, an improved multi-use city hall building, a new library integrating social and community spaces, as well an artists and crafters studio, a gallery and a farmers market.
Lenoir City and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency, partners in the PlanET regional planning endeavor, requested a revitalization concept for their downtown. The University of Tennessee pledged assistance to PlanET through a series of semester-long design studios focusing on regional issues. This project demonstrates the potential for a Main Street concept, including a road diet on Broadway for Lenoir City’s downtown. The road diet proposal was supported by staff from the Knoxville Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization. The project focuses on creating a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and economically sustainable downtown.
Townsend Corridor Revitalization
Townsend is a small community known to many as “the peaceful side of the Smokies.” As a town largely dependent on tourism for its economic vitality, Townsend sometimes finds that things are a little too peaceful. With this demonstration project, students and faculty from the University of Tennessee worked with a group of Townsend’s leaders and residents to imagine changes that would extend the tourism season and expand opportunities for locals while still retaining Townsend’s small-town, foothills charm.
University of Tennessee landscape architecture students conceived a vision of Townsend that includes preservation of agricultural and open space lands; clustering of new development; and a new greenway along the Little River to promote activity and access to the water. The students proposed districts that group like uses together so that Townsend residents and visitors can stop and walk to multiple destinations instead of having to drive from place to place along the corridor. The Welcome and Arts districts at either end would offer wayfinding for visitors to encourage them to stop and see what Townsend has to offer.
Civil engineering students in their senior capstone class studied the U.S. 321 corridor from several perspectives. The transportation students were asked to develop ideas that would improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists while maintaining safe and efficient travel for drivers. One team recommended converting the five-lane highway to a two-lane facility with bicycle lanes, a median, turn lanes and attractive crosswalks for pedestrians.
Another team of transportation engineering students recommended a wide planted median with crosswalks at regular intervals. The skew in the crossing means pedestrians are angled toward oncoming traffic for better visibility between drivers and pedestrians.
Level of Service (LOS) is a measure of the capacity of street segments and intersections. The students found that even with the reduction in the number of motor vehicle lanes, the LOS for drivers on U.S. 321 in Townsend remained high. The reduced driver speeds and more frequent crossings increased the LOS for pedestrians. The LOS for bicyclists remained poor, but the greenway through Townsend gives them an alternative to the on-street bike lanes.
State Route 61 Corridor – East Anderson County
The concepts presented here were created to foster further discussion on how growth and development along State Route 61 in east Anderson County could be undertaken in a more environmentally and culturally sensitive manner.
This project envisions a corridor that creates a great place through preserving the cultural and natural heritage. This great place is envisioned to include a new secondary town center at the Norris Road/Norris Freeway intersection, where residents and tourists can congregate in a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environment. The new attractions are connected by a system of open spaces.
Part of the vision includes a corridor that has new housing choices in and around the corridor. The new amenities within the corridor (such as restaurants, parks and greenways) will attract new housing choices nearby. In addition, the project envisions greater connectivity to outlying areas which would open up more opportunities for more housing outside the corridor.
The Oak Ridge Original Town Site
Leveraging the historic assets of Oak Ridge’s original town site and the city’s heritage of energy technology research, this redevelopment plan contemplates a new vision for the core of the city as a mixed-use town center. The concept promotes a compact, walkable, transit-oriented development pattern, a socially invigorated live/work/play atmosphere, and a distinct sense of place evocative of the city’s past, present, and future and of the surrounding regional landscape.
This project encourages the preservation of World War II-era resources and the celebration of Oak Ridge history. This includes restoring original town site historic resources, chief among them The Guest House, also known as the Alexander Inn. Two nearby resources, the Jackson Square Apartments and the Chapel on the Hill, have been well maintained. Finally, the buildings of Jackson Square are proposed for continued use, as is Blankenship Field.
This demonstration project focuses on the reuse of grayfields. In this case, the grayfield is an underutilized shopping center. Each of the PlanET counties has tens of thousands of square feet of such spaces, which are likely to be redeveloped over time. As aging shopping centers are redeveloped, they can be replaced by a mix of retail, office and housing development, accompanied by ample green space and also street networks that serve multiple transportation needs and connect with nearby developments.
This project is based on the thesis work of Luke Murphree, a landscape architecture graduate student with the University of Tennessee’s College of Architecture and Design. PlanET staff and Murphree’s adviser, Brad Collett, suggested the former Wal-Mart site in Halls as a study area. The site has been considered for a future community center.
Through the use of mixed-use and compact development, the site can accommodate new commercial, office and residential uses. The project envisions dining and shopping as ground-level uses, while apartments and offices are situated on upper floors. This would create a new town center, accommodating 1,200 new residents and 3,500 jobs over the next 30 years. It should also include civic spaces in the form of squares, commons and outdoor entertainment venues. Their design should be inspirational, fostering a high quality of life for Halls residents.
The project also includes a connected network of Complete Streets, that is, streets that provide safe accommodation for all users. The addition of new residents and jobs would help support a transit connection to the points between Halls and downtown. Greenway trails can link to the existing trails in Halls and to nearby destinations.
Historic Downtown Loudon
This project envisions the redevelopment of downtown Loudon’s Hutch Manufacturing site, and the re-use of the historic buildings on that site for a mix of residential and civic uses. The plan calls for the construction of a new City Hall, the renovation of a parking lot for a farmers market, and the additional of a public waterfront park and greenway, all within a walkable environment. Single-family housing and townhomes with a view of the river are proposed for the site as well.
Hutch Manufacturing Company, which shut its doors in January of 2012, is located along the Tennessee River in downtown Loudon. The main building on the 11-plus-acre site is a 1948 red brick structure that served as the Bacon Creamery, and the two older buildings were the Bacon Hosiery Mill properties from the 1920s. The old water tank on the site is a city landmark. The Loudon Economic Development Agency saw the potential of the site due to its proximity to downtown Loudon and the Tennessee River and is interested in developing a new use for the site that would enhance the surrounding community. In 2012 the project was chosen to become a PlanET Demonstration Project.