Group protests church's plan to tear down buildings

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A small group holding signs protested as people filed into St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Sunday morning. The church owns two 90-year-old buildings on Walnut Street next door, and plans to tear them down to create more parking and accessibility to the church.

"I moved here quite a few years ago and every time I have out of town company, the biggest impression Knoxville makes on them is the way we've saved our historic buildings. They're precious to me, every single one of them," said Carole Borges, one of the protestors.

That's why Borges - and the other protestors - want the church to reconsider.

"I think that just destroying these buildings really detracts from the character of downtown. And as a citizen of Knoxville, I'd like to contribute to making that last for future generations," said Jonathan Ziegler.

Many said there are too many parking lots as it is.

"People that come to visit the city, we want them to come and see buildings that are still in use, people that are living downtown, businesses downtown - not just another surface parking lot," said Steven Horton.

But church members said the expansion is necessary:

"We feel that we need those buildings removed to give us a nice entrance to the rear lot - our older people have a hard time getting in through these steps and things," said Hank Bertelkamp.

"We don't have nearly enough parking and it's very difficult for older people or people with handicaps to get into the church. You can't get into the church without going up steps right now. And hopefully we'll be able to make some changes to make it more accessible," said Susan Conway.

Even so, protestors said buildings like these will never be built again and it's more important to preserve Knoxville's history.

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