Facelift For the Cumberland Avenue Strip?

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Our top story -- it's the first step in revitalizing Cumberland Avenue. Thursday night began the first of a series of meetings to gather ideas for re-constructing the Strip and providing a better connection to downtown Knoxville.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel takes a look at that plan.

Years of wear and tear, struggles with business consistency, and a congested traffic pattern. They're all reasons the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the University and the city of Knoxville are teaming up to reshape the Strip, but they can't do it without your help first.

"Everyone's always on the strip," UT student Lori Suttlemir said.

It has it's strengths.

"It's nice to have a strong, core customer base," John Burns from the Sunspot said.

But it's weaknesses.

"Some of the unique local flare that used to be there before is gone," said Rob Dansereau from the Cumberland Avenue Merchant's Association.

"It doesn't look very pretty," Suttlemir said.

Make the strip a candidate for a major face lift.

"Over time, Cumberland Avenue has fallen into disrepair to a degree and has become a very unattractive area," Dansereau said.

Tons of traffic, problems with parking, and a lack of landscaping are just a few of the problems that need addressed before The Strip reaches it's full potential.

"We have to make it a destination for people of Knoxville," Dansereau said.

But first, they need your input, and through a series of five public meetings, they hope to get it.

"Overall, it would be nice if the city deemed it feasible to build a parking garage," Burns said.

"I think we could use more restaurants," Suttlemir said.

Revitalization includes more residential property.

"In the next few years, I'd like to see several thousand people living in the Cumberland Avenue area," Dansereau said.

A better transportation plan.

"There needs to be turning lanes or something," Suttlemir said.

And an improvement in appearance.

"There are several establishments laying vacant," Burns said.

Owners say abandoned business, like this O'Charley's, are hindering The Strip's growth. They're looking at a more permanent plan to help revitalize this area.

"I would like to see some enticement for an entrepreneur or a group of entrepreneurs to come in and do something with that," Burns said.

Developers also hope to create a better connection between campus and downtown.

"We're not talking about expansion of the commercial district, necessarily, but looking at the elements that are already there and making it gel together," Dansereau said.

A $270,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation is funding the study. It's supposed to be finished by March of next year, but it could be more than five years before you start to see a change on Cumberland Avenue.