Pittman Properties probably owns more rental homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the Downtown North Central Corridor than any other landlord, so it was no surprise that CEO Bill Pittman was among the crowd of more than 30 stakeholders who showed up at the Relix Variety Theater Tuesday night to look over the city’s landscaping plans for the $6.15 million streetscape project.
Overall, Pittman said he’s pleased with the progress that has been made on North Central, but he does have a big landscaping concern:
“I’m interested to see something more easily maintained than what’s on Cumberland,” he said, referring to the bedraggled vegetation planted along the recently redesigned Cumberland Avenue. “It doesn’t seem that the landscaping survived the construction.”
Jacqueline Arthur, general manager of Three Rivers Market, one of the busiest businesses on the North Central Corridor, attended the meeting along with ecological landscape designer Joan Monaco. Arthur and Monaco have been working on the market’s landscaping and said they share Pittman’s concerns. They have very specific ideas about what should be done. Those ideas can be summed up in two words:
“We’re concerned,” Arthur said. “We like sustainable things, and one reason we like native plants is that they like it here.”
Monaco said landscaping should function as a system, and native plants are well suited to do just that.
“They don’t want to be mulched in three inches of hardwood mulch, and they don’t want to be mowed down,” she said.
Arthur said that Three Rivers got permission from the city to plant along the right of way in anticipation of the landscaping plan.
“We’re still arguing for that,” she said. “We’ve invested so much.”
Monaco said she’d like to see a landscaping plan that respects biodiversity, visual diversity and sense of place.
“When you drive down the street, you need to feel like you’re in East Tennessee,” she said.
Anne Wallace, the city’s deputy redevelopment director, said the city is working to strike the right landscaping balance and produced a handout called “Native or non-native: a conversation on planting for the Downtown North Central Corridor.” The handout said that Hedstrom Landscape Architecture plans a 72/28 percent mix of native and non-native plants.
Wallace said she is hoping to start the landscaping work in early spring but may have to defer it until fall, depending on the weather.
“We want to do what’s best for the plants,” she said.