Deciding the Future For Two Downtown Buildings

Knoxville (WVLT) - Two downtown Knoxville properties will see some big changes in the coming years.

Through a public workshop on Thursday at the Knox Area Chamber...dozens came out to offer up their ideas for the properties. It's an important step in determining the most practical uses for the buildings on church and state streets.

Right now, this site sits empty and has for about two years. But in a room just a few blocks away, you'll hear progress.

"Take advantage of this chance to upgrade some of the facilities we have downtown," Pay McHugh says.

This is all part of a public workshop to gather ideas about revitalizing these two properties located on church and state streets.

"What happens downtown reflects on our whole county and our whole region," said Mike Arms, Chief of Staff to the Knox County Mayor.

At Thursday's meeting, they took the funnel approach...breaking into groups and generating several ideas. Later, each group chose their top picks for the site and then the entire group narrowed it down once more.

"If you look at Chattanooga, they have tourist attractions, whether it be aquariums and that sort of thing, to get not only Knoxville residents, but out-of-towners down to this area, and give them a reason to come downtown," Lloyd Montgomery says.

Some of the most popular ideas included a library and mixed-use structures.

"We're especially interested in thinking that a new library there with some other uses of that space, retail, residential... that it is an exciting possibility for Knox County," Ginna Mashburn says.

The first is the former 'Knoxville News-Sentinel' site on Church Street. The second is located on state street. Developers say with so much activity on Gay Street...

"We think the next big step is State Street, one street over," Arms says.

Right now, the group is focusing more on the Church Street site. And once the city turns the State Street site back over to the county...they will look more closely at possibilities for that property.

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