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Knoxville's South Waterfront Riverwalk: Uniting the Urban and the Wild 

South Waterfront

It started in 2009 when CityView at Riverwalk Condominiums opened along Knoxville’s South Waterfront, just west of the Henley Street Bridge. 

Private investment in the City’s South Waterfront redevelopment area offered a new choice in urban living, not to mention a spectacular view of the Tennessee River. 

Additionally, a riverwalk right outside the condominiums gave residents a new way to enjoy the waterfront. 

This was the beginning of the City’s vision: a three-mile public riverwalk that will stretch from River’s Edge Apartments near the Island Home neighborhood to CityView condominiums. 

CityView riverwalk is open to the public, and the City is expected to complete one third of the entire riverwalk by late 2019.

Specifically, the plan calls for a new 0.6-mile section from Suttree Landing Park riverwalk to River’s Edge and a 70-foot riverwalk connector extending underneath the Norfolk Southern railroad line overpass to CityView. The developer, in partnership with the City, planned for a 50-foot elevation change and will creatively build a unique connection that calls for an elevator and stairs to connect walkers from 303 Flats to the CityView riverwalk.

Other riverwalk sections have been built as apartment complexes have opened between or near the Henley and Gay Street bridges.

Blount Ave Riverwalk Access

“Visitors are already enjoying portions of the riverwalk. It has created amazing walkability by connecting people to our riverfront,” says Dawn Michelle Foster, Knoxville’s Redevelopment Director.

“This is what is so fabulous. We have an opportunity as a city to create outdoor experiences and growth along both sides of the Tennessee River. This is an amazing asset for Knoxville, and it’s something many cities don’t have.”

Along with the riverwalk project, new private investments on the South Waterfront have prompted even more residential choices, including River’s Edge Apartments, One Riverwalk Apartments and 303 Flats, a 438-resident student housing development that opened in fall 2018.

One Riverwalk is the latest apartment community with 303 units. One building is completed, with residents now moving in. The second apartment building is scheduled for completion in fall 2019.

When full, the number of new residents on the South Waterfront will total 1,100.

Suttree Landing Park, which opened in 2016, immediately began to draw bikers and walkers and has been a catalyst for revitalizing the South Waterfront and the Old Sevier community.

“It’s one more way to engage in outdoor recreation along the Tennessee River. And all less than two miles from the heart of downtown Knoxville,” says Foster. 

“We’ve been repurposing areas like this park that were blighted and empty – many of them for years.” 

The new park is an enduring public space for outdoor enthusiasts and also has spurred the start of new economic growth in the area. 

The diverse mix of local businesses along Blount and Sevier avenues now includes Regal headquarters (with 350 employees), Honey Bee Coffee, The Landing House and Simpl restaurants, Uncle Lem’s Outfitters, South Coast Pizza and several breweries. All are creating a vibrant neighborhood that is attracting visitors to the Old Sevier area.

Also being developed, in addition to the Blount Avenue Streetscape improvements, are three new public spaces incorporated with One Riverwalk Apartments that are expected to be completed in late 2019. The areas will create additional riverfront amenities and outdoor entertainment opportunities. 

Approximately 37,550 square feet of new public event space being built on the western edge of the waterfront next to Henley Bridge will accommodate riverfront views with a terraced lawn. Along the riverwalk will be tree plantings, benches, trash receptacles and lighting. A public restroom will be located in the area.

Centered at One Riverwalk will be a new 27,000-square-foot public plaza that visitors can access from Blount Avenue. The plaza will include an accessible elevator and stairway to connect them from the Blount Avenue street level down to the riverwalk. An additional 2,800-square-foot pocket park is also being completed on the east end of the riverwalk. 

The City has also long envisioned a whole other kind of look and feel for the South Waterfront’s 1,650-foot-long riverbank: Rid the riverbank of invasive kudzu and plant native habitat in its place.

“We’ve been carefully and safely diminishing the kudzu slowly over several years and will replace it with native habitat. This just makes good sense ecologically,” says Chad Weth, the City’s Public Service Director.

Already in its third year, the kudzu project has about another year of the safe eradication, followed by landscaping and plantings of native trees, shrubs and grasses. This partnership between the City and the developer will result in a healthy, stable and beautiful riverbank, which will also mean a healthier river, says Weth.

The South Waterfront Riverwalk will also be a natural link to Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, says Foster.

Located in close proximity to South Waterfront residents, businesses, parks and visitors, this 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness adventure area includes 11 trailhead destinations and 50 miles of biking and walking trails and greenways. 

It’s become a national destination, and it’s expanding.

Planning the first phase of the new $10 million Urban Wilderness Gateway Park in South Knoxville is underway, and construction will begin soon. This new “front porch” to the Urban Wilderness includes a kind of visitors’ center that will introduce visitors to the recreation area. It will offer self-guided information and mapping, giving people all kinds of outdoor options, depending on what they want to do.  

Years in the planning, the Gateway Park will feature a landscaped access point and gathering space at Baker Creek Preserve and at the James White Parkway Terminus as well as parking, pedestrian and bike pathways and trails, a bike park and children’s nature play areas. 

This revitalized region with new open spaces, riverwalks and upgraded streets will connect to the Urban Wilderness and James White Parkway Greenway.

The end result? A transformed Knoxville South Waterfront neighborhood that organically unites the urban and the wild.

CityView Riverwalk

Outdoor Public Space Near Henley Bridge

Posted by mleidig On 12 April, 2019 at 10:33 AM