Cumberland Avenue Business Owners Talk About Changes to Strip

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Watermain problems like the one Wednesday could soon be a thing of the past as Cumberland Avenue gets set to take on a new face to welcome Vol fans to the Strip.

Volunteer TV's Gary Loe gives us our first look at an extreme makeover, which will redesign an area tailgaters made famous.

Planners gave us a preview Wednesday of the final draft which will be presented tomorrow. The goal is to make improvements here to replace the run down look of the Strip and make it a place folks will come to every day of the week, not just on game days.
Improvements to the Strip are designed to make the Strip a place to visit, rather than an area to travel through.

The most immediate change would reduce traffic flow from 4 lanes to 3 a dedicated middle turn lane would divide east-west traffic. This would allow the widening of sidewalks, which are now narrow and in poor shape, making the area more pedestrian friendly.

"Instead of a 5 foot, or 6 foot sidewalk, you could have 9 or 10 foot sidewalks where it's comfortable to walk 2 or 3 people abreast, and you don't have the fear of having to stumble out into the street," MPC staff member Jeff Welch said.

Metropolitan Planning Commission staffer Jeff Welch, who attended Wednesday's plan preview for advisory board members, says another aspect would replace the numerous single story buildings along Cumberland with multi-level structures, which would include apartments or condos. The plan locates fast food stores together, brings storefronts to the street, and creates shared parking lots.

"You're at the front door of business instead of along the parking lot," Welch said.

Upgrading and relocating utilities underground, or to the alleys, would beautify and upgrade the Strip's infrastructure. Merchant Rob Dansereau says these improvements could lead to establishing long-term tenants here.

"We kind of understand now that we really can't develop downtown Knoxville if all the corridors leading into downtown Knoxville look very poor, like Cumberland Avenue did. It's pretty much the front porch to downtown, and it looks really bad right now," Dansereau said.

The plan will take 5 to 10 years to put in place, and cost about $10 million. Funds could come from transportation grants and other public money. Glatting-Jackson of Florida has worked the past 5 months on the study and will present its final draft concepts Thursday at UT's University Center Ballroom at 6 o'clock.