Orange cones and zig-zag lanes for the last eight months. Lots of utility work by KUB and construction excavation by the road builders. A bit bumpy to traverse for now. But a modern roadway awaits, “a complete street with enhanced service for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders,” according to city redevelopment director Dawn Michelle Foster.
Slowly but surely the four-block Phase I improvements are taking shape. New sidewalks edged by trees, wrought iron benches, and a soon-to-be-landscaped center island, plus upgraded traffic signals are falling into place on the “model block” from the concrete bridge at Hall of Fame east to Myrtle Street. This construction is headed by a small business firm, The Franklin Group. The segment should be opened to normal traffic by late August.
Phase II covers the next four blocks to Bertrand, and it’s also underway. The contractor on this segment is McKinnon Construction and barring unforeseen difficulties, they are on target to finish their work by year’s end. Together these two segments represent a $7 million investment by city taxpayers.
That leaves Phase III which will extend from Bertrand to Cherry Street. That segment requires further planning and completion of financing. The city development and engineering teams have been working with TDOT to obtain 80-20 federal/state transportation block grant financing commitments in order to design and build out or “enhance” that last half-mile segment going forward.
The hope is that these infrastructure improvements, when completed, will trigger needed private business reinvestment along Magnolia, much like it has done along the downtown north’s Central Avenue rework and earlier on Cumberland Avenue.
Magnolia Avenue was once a great boulevard, the main access to downtown Knoxville for East Tennessee. The roadway included a center lane trolley service from downtown to Burlington and served surrounding neighborhoods and visitors to Chilhowee Park and Lake Ottasee.
The road has great bones. It also features tourist attractions like Zoo Knoxville and the Botanical Gardens. But Magnolia sagged in recent years after I-40 displaced much of the east-west traffic to the center city and development moved westward. The city hopes its corridor renewal efforts will help spur Magnolia’s renewal.
The time is right. East Knoxville looks forward to that brighter future.
Read more about the project here.