City redevelops Magnolia Avenue area

City leaders are giving East Knoxville a facelift. Magnolia Avenue can expect new streetscapes and facades. 7-11-14

(WBIR- East Knoxville) The City of Knoxville is revamping the area around Magnolia Avenue through a streetscapes program and a facade program, said Bob Whetsel, director of redevelopment for the City of Knoxville.

Whetsel said the improvements in downtown have been successful, so now the city is looking to revitalize the major corridors outside the city center.

A three and a half mile stretch of Magnolia from downtown to the Knoxville Zoo can expect improved streetscapes and bike lanes and added medians and street parking, he said.

The goal is to bring economic development to East Knoxville, Whetsel said.

"I think everybody's excited about what's happening on the Magnolia corridor, and in the Magnolia warehouse district," he said. "There's been some new purchases of property down there. There's been a kind of re-energizing of the people living along the corridor there so there's hope for Magnolia."

Amie Bolin owns Nostalgia, a vintage shop in East Knoxville. She said she moved her business there after hearing about the plans to develop the area.

"We were really excited about what we heard the city was going to be doing and just hoping to be part of that and have our business be part of it," she said.

The city started a facade program to improve the exteriors of existing businesses around Magnolia Avenue. The business next to Bolin's participated in the program, and Bolin said she has already talked to the city about redoing the front of her shop.

"As a small business owner, there are so many things that you have to pay for and sometimes really just keeping your doors open is what you do," Bolin said. "And if they city can help to make it look better, and to help you be able to do something you wouldn't be able to do, it's amazing."

Whetsel said the city pays for 75 percent of of the facade improvement and the business pays 25 percent. So far, about half a million dollars has been spent on the facade program in the Magnolia area, he said.

"I think East Knoxville has a bright future," he said. "I think it has just as much a perception problem as it has a reality problem at this point."

The city also has plans to redevelop the South Waterfront, the Cumberland strip, North Knoxville, and continue work on downtown, Whetsel said.


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