Town Hall East aims to build strong neighborhoods

Shannon CareyNortheast Knox

There’s more to Knoxville than what you’ll find out west. Folks who live in East Knoxville are pretty eager to let you know that it’s likewise a great place to live, work and play.

One of those people is Doug Toppenberg, now on his second term as president of Town Hall East, a neighborhood association that has been active since the 1960s representing East Knoxville’s neighborhoods from Burlington to Holston Hills. Toppenberg has lived in Holston Hills since 1993.

“The organization is a way to preserve and protect the neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s an older neighborhood, and we want to keep it nice. I think East Knox is an underrated part of our city. It has a lot of bad stereotypes , but it’s really a very nice place. We’re trying to promote the neighborhood as a family-friendly, safe, affordable place to live.”

Toppenberg said there’s room for everybody in East Knox neighborhoods and in Town Hall East, and they often work hand-in-hand with other neighborhood organizations.

“There are people from all walks of life that want to live in good neighborhoods,” he said. “We’re not wanting to price anybody out. Neighborhoods go through an evolution. We are very mindful of that, and we’re certainly not trying to upset the racial balance. It’s important to live in harmony with everybody.”

Toppenberg said Town Hall East is strictly a neighborhood association, but they do sometimes advocate for business issues. Most recently, they have worked with the Burlington Neighborhood Association to explore revitalization of the downtown Burlington area, hearing from Knox Heritage about the area’s history and staying current on business efforts there.

“Our concern is to keep the quality of the neighborhood up, and that correlates with having good businesses nearby,” he said.

Each year, Town Hall East hosts the Neighborhood Scoop ice cream social at Tank Strickland Park over Labor Day weekend. In fact, they were one of the groups who promoted creation of the park on a formerly blighted property, and they continue to provide volunteer work for maintenance and upgrades.

They’ve also successfully taken up advocacy, including opposing a cell tower slated for the heart of Burlington, school rezonings and more.

Meetings are held the second Monday of January, March, May, September and November, with speakers of interest to the neighborhood featured in each.

For 2018, Toppenberg hopes to increase Town Hall East’s membership to include more neighbors.

“We’re a board that does a lot of work,” he said. “We can’t do these things all by ourselves, and we would like to include more people in the process.”

For more information about Town Hall East, visit their Facebook page.

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