KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — As construction on Alcoa Highway continues, people living in the area are looking to the future to see what their stretch of land will look like when it's all said and done.
Arms raise for questions, pencils dance along sketch paper and hands clap together at the end of an hours long session on the North Campus of the Sevier Heights Baptist Church. Neighbors, developers, business owners and more all met on Friday night. They have a connection to a 1.4 mile stretch of land along US-129.
"The past two years, we've been under construction out here," said the chair of the Alcoa Highway Beautification Council, Kathy Proctor. "In one way it's been a blessing because the speed has been reduced to 40 miles an hour, which means people only go 60 miles an hour," she laughed after the meeting.
The construction along that part of the highway is nearly done, Proctor said she expects it to be finished within a year. The question becomes, what's next? That's why this group spent hours on Friday brainstorming, drawing out plans for their future. It starts with building business, which has taken a major turn since construction began.
"Business after business has has gone out of business. There are 7,500 residents in this area that have no services whatsoever unless they go to Blount County or got to Bearden.
Change is happening. Driving on the highway was a big concern before, one of TDOT's main goals in construction was to make it a safer place, but n ow, business practices must change, that according to East Tennessee Community Design Center's Leslie Fawaz.
"You don't pull right off into a business as soon as you see it, you have to think about it before, so signage is crucial to make sure you know where you're going and how you're going to get there."
When construction is finished, step one will be to landscape the 1.4 mile stretch, making it look as important as Proctor says it is, to get the ball moving toward a better tomorrow.
"There's 58,000 people that drive by this every single day, this is an entry to Knoxville like no other."
"We're not putting our best foot forward right now."