Community Design Center to Host Symposium on Walkable Downtowns

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Community Design Center to Host Symposium on Walkable Downtowns

Posted: 09/05/2013
What kinds of services and amenities make a residential experience "ageless?" What are the advantages of urban living? How can a city maximize its potential for residential development?  Those questions will be the focus of an afternoon symposium to be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street.

A reception and book signing will follow the symposium for Jeff Speck, the keynote speaker and author of "Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time."
Hosted by the Community Design Center, a nonprofit organization that brings design services to nonprofit organizations and government entities with specific needs related to community building, the symposium will encourage interest in making Knoxville, and community centers in East Tennessee, attractive, livable places for all ages of life.  

Plan East Tennessee is the Presenting Sponsor. Downtown Knoxville CBID, Central Business Improvement District, is also providing key sponsorship support

The three-hour symposium will outline recent trends in urban living for a range of population groups.  While the pedestrian-friendly qualities of downtowns such as Knoxville are appealing to residents of all ages, this symposium will explore recent trends in urban living for a range of population groups, including retirees, “empty nesters,” families, and young professionals. Two national experts will offer comments, followed by a panel discussion with Knoxville citizens and leaders. Mayor Madeline Rogero will make introductory comments as well. 

The keynote speaker, Jeff Speck, is an urban planner and author, based in Washington, D.C.  He has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability.  He will share the "Why and How" regarding successful, walkable communities.  His most recently completed book has received a range of positive reviews for its informative and down-to-earth information.  The book is entitled " Walkable City:  How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time." 

A second speaker, Helen Foster, is a nationally recognized expert in "age-qualified" real estate.  Founder of Foster Strategy LLC, she has extensive experience in working with forward thinking communities and developers in ways that identify "boomer" development opportunities. In her consulting work, she helped the state of Louisiana market its diverse retirement opportunities related to urban living in New Orleans, community experiences in small towns, and active experiences enhanced by the parks and natural amenities of the state.  In her work with private developers, she is aware of key national trends in diversifying residential opportunities related to a population that is getting older and demanding more than an isolated "retirement center."  Retirement opportunities in walkable, urban neighborhoods with de-centralized amenities are increasingly popular.  She will speak regarding "Principles of Ageless Communities."

As a conclusion to the Symposium, a panel discussion of local leaders will discuss opportunities in Knoxville and other regional communities.  For the panel, we have a combination of developers, downtown residents, business owners, and policy makers from the public sector. The Symposium will conclude with a reception, hosted by Partners Development, and a book signing, hosted by Union Avenue Books.  

The Panel includes Alvin Nance, President/CEO, Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation;  Rick Dover, General Manager of Family Pride Corporation, the largest retirement-targeted developer in the region;  Mary Holbrook, a Downtown Knoxville resident;  Robyn Askew, CBID President  and Special Counsel for Lewis, King, Krieg, and Waldrop; Ellen Zavisca, Senior Transportation Planner for Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization; Mark Heinz, Architect and Developer with Dewhirst Properties; and Bill Lyons, Chief Policy Officer and Deputy to the Mayor for the City of Knoxville. The panel will be moderated by Marleen Davis, Professor of Architecture at The University of Tennessee. 

Additional community sponsors include Lawler Wood, Partners Development, The University of Tennessee Institute of Public Service, Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation, The University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, City of Knoxville Community Development Department, Hedstrom Design, Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, and two anonymous donors.  

The Symposium is free and open to the public.  RSVP for limited seating at 865-525-9945 or