Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Blog Posts


Indya Kincannon
[email protected]
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

Last item for navigation
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
Blog header for MASP

Welcome to the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Blog! Here you will find updates on the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes project. For more information please visit

Magnolia Stakeholders: Job Creation is Urban League's Focus - 07/03/2019

One of the many focuses of the Knoxville Area Urban League is creating jobs. And the local Urban League is hopeful that the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project underway a block away from their offices will help stimulate new investment and jobs.

The Knoxville Area Urban League is a non-profit organization affiliated with the National Urban League, founded on advancing civil rights and promoting employment opportunities for African-Americans. 

Today, the organization’s mission is to enable “African-Americans and disadvantaged others to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.”

Phyllis Nichols is the longtime President and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. She’s been with the organization for 25 years, so she’s seen many changes in Knoxville and how the Urban League serves the community.

“When the Urban League was chartered in Knoxville in 1968, our central concern was equal opportunity for African-Americans to jobs. That has morphed into a training, workforce development program where we do all kinds of services,” Nichols says.

Jobs are still a core concern for the Urban League, and Terrance Carter can attest to that. 

“The best way to grow your economy is through local and small businesses,” says Carter, the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development.

Nichols is quick to note that the Urban League is focused on today’s issues facing the community. One of these is affordable housing.

Felix Harris is the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Vice President of Housing and Community Development. He says that Knoxville’s shortage of affordable housing is a primary concern for the Urban League.

“We’re just trying to work so people won’t be homeless,” Harris says.

Harris works to connect low- and middle-income people with housing they can afford by offering counseling through the home-buying process.

Nichols says she’s hopeful the Magnolia Streetscapes Project will bring economic development to the area. Carter points out that new businesses will mean new jobs for low-income communities.

The Knoxville Area Urban League’s headquarters sits just off of the construction on Magnolia Avenue at 1514 E. Fifth Avenue. Mayor Rogero attended the opening of the Urban League’s new headquarters last year.

“The City is making an investment in public infrastructure,” Carter says of the Magnolia Streetscapes Project. "We’ve obviously made an investment in our own facilities to make it more efficient, more functional, and so we can provide more services to our clients.”

Urban League ribbon-cutting, Oct. 17, 2018
Urban League ribbon-cutting, Oct. 17, 2018

The Urban League’s headquarters features new offices and conference rooms for staff, as well as community space for events, classes, and more. It’s a truly beautiful building with a modern layout and amenities.

Nichols says that what excites her about the Magnolia Streetscapes project is that “we’ve started.” She echoes the concerns of some East Knoxville residents that the project ought to extend further. 

Carter also hopes the new curb appeal of Magnolia Avenue will bring in businesses and jobs.

In the current City budget, $1 million is allocated for Phase 3 design work for the Magnolia Streetscapes Project, a stretch of the corridor east toward Cherry Street. Construction funds would need to be budgeted in future years.

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.

Magnolia Stakeholders: 5 Perspectives on Corridor’s History, Future - 07/02/2019

Talk with people of different ages, with different backgrounds, about Chilhowee Park and the Magnolia Avenue Corridor, and you’ll hear a wealth of personal stories. Almost everyone has a favorite experience they’re willing to share.

For this blog post, City Communications Intern Jack King wanted to focus on the history of the neighborhoods and businesses along Magnolia Avenue, so he interviewed a number of people able to provide long-view perspectives.

Some grew up in African-American households living near what was once a partially-segregated business district. Two of the interviewees are well-known local historians and authors. Two are City officials who head up Redevelopment and Community Relations initiatives.

Here are their stories about what the neighborhoods near Magnolia Avenue used to be like – and their hopes for Magnolia Avenue’s next chapter.

Avice Reid: ‘An inviting place’

Avice Evans Reid, the City’s Senior Director of Community Relations, grew up in East Knoxville and attended Eastport Elementary School. She is a member of the Cherry Street Church of God. Much of her family still lives in East Knoxville.

Growing up on Cityview Avenue, about three-quarters of a mile from Magnolia’s 2300 block, Reid remembers having fun as a child by walking to the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Cherry Street to get an ice cream cone at Kay’s Ice Cream. 

She also recalls going to A&P grocery store, C&S Laundry and more on Magnolia Avenue during her childhood.

But she also recalls that Knoxville remained segregated when she was a child, so she was limited in the places she could patronize on Magnolia Avenue. The places she could patronize, Reid points out, were white-owned businesses.

Reid is hopeful that the City’s current Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project will help revitalize the Magnolia corridor by encouraging new businesses to open or existing businesses to expand. She’d like Magnolia to be as robust as it was when she was younger.

“Any time you fix up an area, it should be available to any and everybody,” Reid says of the Magnolia Streetscapes Project. “I’m a strong believer that everyone wants to live in an inviting place.”

 Reid believes the City reached out extensively to neighborhood residents and business owners over a number of years to try to plan the Magnolia Avenue upgrades that stakeholders wanted. 

But she also knows what it’s like for a public project to be done the wrong way.  

When she was a young girl, Reid experienced displacement during the so-called “urban renewal” projects that uprooted many African-American neighborhoods. Her church used to be located at 400 Patton Street, but in 1967 was shut down by urban renewal projects. For two years, the congregation worshipped at Vine Junior High School until permanently relocating to its current address at 729 Cherry Street. 

Cherry Street Church of God is celebrating its 50th year on Cherry Street this year.

Reid’s grandmother was also displaced from her Five Points-area home during urban renewal. She ended up moving to the Mechanicsville area, as she and many of her neighbors were forced to disperse to different places around the city.

“I’m excited to see the possibilities of the current Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project,” Reid says. “Once the area has that appealing façade, it will encourage businesses to come back. It will encourage people to just roam by and just see what there is to offer.”

Bob Booker: Saving nickels for day at Chilhowee Park

Robert J. “Bob” Booker is a Knoxville civil-rights hero, former state Representative, City Councilman and founder and former director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.

For 70 years of his life, Booker lived within two blocks of Magnolia Avenue.

He hopes the City’s Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project will restore Magnolia as the “grand boulevard” it was when he was a youngster. And he is especially enthused that new trees and landscaping are being planted along Magnolia Avenue.

But Booker is an author and historian, so when he talks about Magnolia Avenue, he chooses to educate and illuminate. Things were very different in the segregated 1950s.

While kids today might save up for the hottest new toy on Amazon, Booker saved for a summer day at Chilhowee Park.

Starting around April, Booker would do odd jobs around his neighborhood – like delivering ice to his neighbors. He saved up his nickels and dimes for August 8, the one day each year when African-Americans were allowed to enjoy Chilhowee Park.

As Booker describes in a recent column, then-Military Gov. Andrew Johnson freed his personal slaves in Greeneville, Tenn., on Aug. 8, 1863. African-American families in East Tennessee and elsewhere have been celebrating the Eighth of August since 1872.

In pre-Civil Rights Movement Knoxville, Aug. 8 meant a holiday, sometimes a parade, and always a one-day-only admission into Chilhowee Park. “It was like Christmas,” Booker says.

So as a boy, carting ice around the neighborhood, Booker would by August have saved $10 to $12 dollars – enough to ride the dodge cars and go through the tunnel of love and crazy house.

Neighborhood children would walk to the park: “Why spend money on bus fare when you could spend that nickel on cotton candy?”

Booker remembers being largely excluded from businesses on Magnolia Avenue because of segregation, but he recalls going to Krispy Kreme to get the day-old pies for a nickel. He also recalls, like Reid, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream for a cone – though Booker notes he wasn’t allowed to sit and eat there like white Knoxvillians were.

Bob Booker's poem about Knoxville's lunch counter protests
Booker has never been afraid to speak his mind when he sees injustice. So when he grew up and was a student leader and activist at Knoxville College, Booker organized sit-ins at segregated businesses in downtown Knoxville.

“An Ode To A Lunch Counter,” a poem by Robert Booker while he was a student at Knoxville College and during the height of Knoxville’s 1960 lunch counter sit-ins. The poem was published in The Aurora, Knoxville College’s student newspaper. (Photo credit: Knoxville College archives, McClung Historical Collection)

Booker would go on to be elected – three times – as the first African-American representing Knoxville in the Tennessee House of Representatives. 

Jack Neely: Destination park, iconic businesses, premier movie theater

Before there were interstates, Chilhowee Park was a destination for tourists, local historian Jack Neely says. Magnolia Avenue was a mix of middle-class neighborhoods and major Knoxville businesses. 

In fact, before the decline of the textile industry, some of Knoxville’s largest employers were located on the east side of the city: Standard Knitting Mills, Holston Mills and the Levi plant – once the biggest jeans plant in the country.

Iconic small businesses from those early days still thrive on Magnolia Avenue – and they rival any in West Knoxville in terms of their longevity, Neely says.

For half a century, professional baseball could only be enjoyed off Magnolia Avenue. And America’s highest concentration of George Barber’s affable Victorian houses can be found in the area.

Neely, Executive Director of the Knoxville History Project, has written extensively about the City’s history and kindly agreed to sit down and talk about the history of Magnolia Avenue – a timely subject, as the City moves toward completion of its $7 million Magnolia Streetscapes Project. (More of the Knoxville History Project’s research and writings can be found at

According to Neely, Magnolia Avenue became a hotspot for out-of-town visitors as Chilhowee Park developed as an attraction and the street itself became a part of a national route before the era of interstates.

By the mid-1900s, neighborhoods and businesses around Magnolia Avenue were robust. 
One of the anchors was one of Knoxville’s two main bakeries, Swan’s Bakery, on Magnolia Avenue. (The building, at Magnolia and Bertrand Street, has long been vacant, but the City has hopes of working with owners to privately redevelop the property.)

Swan's Bakery - pictured here in 1928 - anchors Magnolia Avenue.
Swan’s Bakery, 1928. (Photo credit: The Thompson Photograph Collection, McClung Historical Collection)

Magnolia Avenue dates back to the early post-Reconstruction era. First developed in the 1880s and 1890s, Magnolia was marketed as an “idyllic residential community,” says Neely.  

Magnolia Avenue was the site of East Tennessee’s first streetcar, running from downtown to Chilhowee Park.

Streetcars once ran the length of Magnolia Avenue. It was the first streetcar in East Tennessee.
Streetcar tracks on Magnolia, 1922. (Photo credit: The Thompson Photograph Collection, McClung Historical Collection)

Knoxville Catholic High School, now located in the Cedar Bluff area, called Magnolia home for more than 70 years. The former Catholic school campus is now the site of Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Campus.

Over the decades, as the taming of the river and the opening of the Oak Ridge research labs made previously uninhabited land more desirable, Knoxville’s center of gravity began to shift westward – for a number of reasons.  

New economic opportunities, developable land and even fears among some white East Knoxville residents about African-Americans moving from downtown into East Knoxville triggered a shift in demographics toward West Knoxville, Neely says.

Suddenly, the development of the interstate made the land south of I-40 and north of the Tennessee River more desirable to those seeking a more car-oriented suburban lifestyle.

It wasn’t just the residential patterns in East Knoxville that were changing. Neely says the construction of the interstate also rapidly changed the business model for Magnolia Avenue.

“There were lots of motels on Magnolia in the ’50s and early ’60s, and suddenly they didn’t have any business anymore,” Neely points out.

Chilhowee Park was once the site of an amusement park, stables, and a skating rink, but all of this was gone by the 1970s and ’80s. This led to further decline along the Magnolia corridor.

Chilhowee Park in 1935
Chilhowee Park, circa 1935. (Photo credit: The Thompson Photograph Collection, McClung Historical Collection)

Neely points to an exception: The Park Theatre, at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Olive Street. It was a neighborhood theater before World War II, he says, but peaked in popularity in the 1960s and ’70s before closing in the 1980s. 

It became an important first-run movie house, a destination for the entire city. If you lived in West Knoxville or Halls, and you wanted to see the latest blockbuster before everyone else, you came to the Park Theatre.

Despite the loss of the major textile employers, some small businesses, Neely says, have proudly provided employment and uninterrupted service to loyal customers for decades on Magnolia. RT Clapp (2045 E. Magnolia) and Pizza Palace (3132 E. Magnolia) are two examples that Neely points to.

Other than Long’s Drug Store (4604 Kingston Pike), Neely can’t think of any West Knoxville businesses, with the exception of maybe some gas stations or car dealerships, as old as those two Magnolia landmarks.

Special thanks to the McClung Historical Collection.  More images from McClung’s digital collection can be found at

Daniel Brown: 'A really vibrant street'

Daniel Brown made history as Knoxville’s first African-American Mayor. He served almost a year – from Jan. 10, 2011, to Dec. 11, 2011 – to fill out the remainder of former Mayor Bill Haslam’s term when Haslam resigned to become Tennessee’s governor. 

Brown also served on two terms on City Council from 2009 to 2017, representing the City’s 6th District.

Mayor Brown grew up in East Knoxville in a house on East Vine Avenue, now called Martin Luther King Avenue. He has fond childhood memories of going to the skating rink at Chilhowee Park on Thursdays (the only day of the week African-Americans were allowed to use the rink) and attending the Tennessee Valley Fair. 

He recalls Magnolia as a “really vibrant street” where he would walk to Krispy Kreme to get hot donuts or the Orange Julius to get a delicious orange drink. Still, like Booker, Brown points out he was barred from many businesses on Magnolia because of segregation.

Brown recalls the building of the interstate and its displacement of Magnolia Avenue as the national thoroughfare through Knoxville. Since then, he notes, Magnolia Avenue has experienced significant decline.

Brown hopes the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project will help leverage new reinvestment and bring businesses back to the area. But he wants that investment to benefit traditionally disadvantaged communities.

“I’m hoping that there will be some minority investment in that area,” Brown says. “Hopefully, the streetscapes project will be a shot in the arm.”

Brown’s personal desire: A sit-down restaurant on Magnolia Avenue.

Mayor Brown, well-loved by City staff and the Knoxville community, is retired but continues his public service by volunteering with a number of local boards and non-profits.

Magnolia today: Streetscape to help leverage new investment

Today, contractors for the City’s Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project are working toward a late 2019 completion of the “complete street” upgrades between Jessamine Street on the western end and North Bertrand Street (near the old Swan’s Bakery) to the east.

The $7 million City investment is adding landscaped center medians and left-turn lanes, street trees, wider sidewalks, bike lanes, safer and more aesthetic crosswalks, and enhanced transit connections.

Dawn Michelle Foster“Our goal with this project is to create new opportunity along the Magnolia Avenue Corridor,” says Redevelopment Director Dawn Michelle Foster. 

“We’ve seen with other streetscapes projects that upgrades and adding complete-street amenities leverage new private investment in commercial corridors where there has been recent disinvestment. 

“We envision creating an environment where it’s easier for entrepreneurs and Makers, restaurateurs and builders, to create jobs and provide amenities that will enhance the quality of life in the neighborhoods around the Magnolia Corridor.”

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.

Magnolia Stakeholders: Pellissippi State 'Responds to Needs of Community' - 06/24/2019

Just over a year ago, Mayor Madeline Rogero and Rosalyn Tillman, Dean of Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue campus, talked with a gathering of students, business leaders and reporters.

The themes centered around investment and partnership: Pellissippi State was adding classes and expanding programs, and Dean Tillman was eager to get the word out. Meanwhile, the City was getting ready to break ground on its $7 million Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project. Upgrades include adding landscaped center medians, street trees and landscaping, wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

The Mayor noted that one reason the City chose to invest in this stretch of Magnolia had a lot to do with Pellissippi State being there, along with other established institutions – KAT, the John T. O’Connor Center, the Cansler YMCA, the Urban League, East Tennessee PBS, and the City’s Caswell Park.

“Anchoring the corridor, right in the center, is Pellissippi State and its hundreds of students, faculty and staff,” Mayor Rogero noted at the time. “From the beginning, we’ve enjoyed support from Pellissippi State and the other stakeholders who live and work along or near the Magnolia corridor.”

The Mayor went on to say that it’s easy to envision this stretch of Magnolia as a tree-lined corridor, with new businesses and enhanced public spaces.

(Click here to read a report from that April 2018 gathering on campus.)

Dean Tillman is pictured with Mayor Rogero and singer Chris Blue at a Save Our Sons Summit in 2018 at Pellissippi State's Magnolia Avenue campus.

Fast forward to summer 2019.

Dean Tillman recently sat down and talked about the current role of Pellissippi State and the changes happening on Magnolia Avenue.

With four campuses in Knox County (three of which are located in the City of Knoxville), Pellissippi State offers an education guided by the school’s values: academic integrity, accessibility, affordability, community and civic engagement, diversity, and sustainability. 

Tillman says that the school “responds to the needs of the community” by structuring class schedules around work schedules. Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue campus offers courses in nursing, computer networking, audio production engineering, business management, and more.

Pellissippi State attracts students from all around Knoxville. Tillman mentioned Austin-East, West, Fulton, Central, Gibbs and South-Doyle as high schools from which Pellissippi State draws many of its students.

The new landscaping and crosswalks will improve the student experience for those at the Magnolia Avenue campus, Tillman says.

Tillman also believes the project will attract small and minority-owned businesses to the area. She points out that “it’s important that we’re intentional about being inclusive” when doing any redevelopment project. 

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.

Magnolia Stakeholders: KAT Sees a Win for Pedestrians as a Win for Transit - 06/05/2019

Upon adoption of the Magnolia Avenue Corridor Plan by Knoxville City Council and the Metropolitan Planning Commission in 2009, a report five years later, entitled “Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Report,” was produced.

It identified a “model block” for streetscaping along the Magnolia corridor. ("Streetscaping" means designing an urban roadway in such a way that all users and nearby residents are engaged.) That model block stretch of road was actually a six-block span running from Jessamine Street on the western end to North Bertrand Street on the eastern end. Last summer, the streetscapes work got underway.

In total, more than $7 million is being invested by the City to improve Magnolia Avenue. Improvements include adding landscaped center medians with designated left turn lanes, new stamped crosswalks, traffic signal upgrades, street trees and landscaping, wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

The aim is to improve pedestrian safety at intersection crossings, encourage walkability with wider, tree-lined sidewalks, and make it easier for people to bike and access transit services. It's part of the City's commitment to a "complete street" philosophy.

The connections between transit, bicycling and walking make perfect sense to the folks at Knoxville Area Transit.

“Whenever you can improve the pedestrian experience, you can improve the transit experience,” says Belinda Woodiel-Brill, KAT’s Chief Planning and Public Information Officer. 

“When you add street trees and make the walk more pleasant, people are more likely to consider doing something besides driving by themselves.”

KAT: Improving the pedestrian experience on Magnolia improves the transit experience.

KAT is one of the anchor institutions of Magnolia Avenue, with a maintenance facility for its equipment at 1135 E. Magnolia Avenue. 

But Magnolia Avenue is also important to many of KAT’s customers. Route 31, which provides transit up and down the Magnolia corridor and into downtown Knoxville, is one of KAT’s busiest, transporting an average of 16 passengers per hour.

Route 31 provides transfers to Route 33 (MLK Jr. Avenue) and Route 34 (Burlington) at the Kirkwood Street Superstop. Recognizing the need, buses run every 15 minutes on Magnolia Avenue during peak service hours.

An average of 16 people each hour ride KAT's Route 31 bus.

The streetscapes project will improve the transit experience directly – for example, concrete pads are being poured, allowing KAT over time to install covered bus stop shelters with bench seating. Typically, a bus passenger now stands and waits for a ride, without protection from the elements.

But there are supplemental amenities on the way.

The Magnolia Streetscapes Project will plant approximately 59 new trees (highbeam overcup oaks and American elms) and lay roughly 5,200 linear feet of new and widened sidewalk along the corridor.

Woodiel-Brill points to the progress KAT has made in recent years toward improving the onboard transit experience, such as recent moves toward newer, more comfortable buses with better air conditioning and fuel efficiency.

“Once you get on the bus, the experience is really great,” she says. “But waiting for the bus is not always a great experience, because there aren’t always sidewalks everywhere and there aren’t bus shelters everywhere. So anywhere we can tie into improving that pedestrian experience is going to be beneficial to ridership.”

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.

South Jessamine St. Closed for Several Weeks - 05/06/2019

South Jessamine Street at Magnolia Avenue is closed and will remain closed for several weeks while crews work on storm drainage and install traffic signal and street lighting conduits.

Visit for additional updates. To receive text updates, text the word "Magnolia" to 313131.

First Glimpse of the Magnolia Avenue Gateway Monument - 12/28/2018

Magnolia Flower Limestone Carving
The limestone carving of a magnolia flower for the Magnolia Avenue gateway monument.

This week, the first glimpse of the Magnolia Avenue gateway monument is emerging.

Bruno Lazzaris, an artist from Pittsburgh, Pa., has carved a magnolia flower from limestone that will be embedded in the gateway monument on Magnolia Avenue at Jessamine Street.

“The one-of-a-kind custom stone carving by artisan Brunno Lazzaris will be a significant piece of the gateway monument due to its uniqueness and craftsmanship,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, Director of the City’s Office of Redevelopment. “It will be a key feature for people traveling along Magnolia Avenue to enjoy.”

The magnolia flower will be easy to spot by drivers, transit passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists alike. The limestone piece is 30 inches high, 26 inches wide, and 4 inches thick.

Weighing in at 180 pounds, the finished piece has already made its way to East Tennessee. Morristown Signs, the company contracted by the City of Knoxville to install the lettering and limestone magnolia flower, will hold the piece until its permanent installation.

Morristown Signs hired Lazzaris to create the custom magnolia piece. The artisan built it from his Happy Hollow Studio in Pittsburgh. The actual creation process took about two weeks to complete.

Magnolia Flower Limestone Carving Stages
The stages of the limestone carving for the Magnolia Avenue gateway monument.

“When it comes to carving stone, the most challenging part is making that first cut with everything rolling into place after that, and that’s how this project went for me,” said Lazzaris. “I thought this was an interesting project, especially because it would be out in the public for so many passersby to enjoy on a regular basis.”

Bruno Lazzarus
The artist, Bruno Lazzaris.

The gateway monument is part of Phase I of the Magnolia Streetscapes Project, which is slated to be finished in summer 2019.

For more information, visit

Water Quality Device Installed 25 Feet Underground in Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project - 12/28/2018

Water Quality Unit

Phase I construction on the $4.2 million Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project between Jessamine Street and Myrtle Street is on schedule as crews are making significant drainage improvements, including the installation of a large-scale stormwater quality device.

Water Quality Unit

A hidden hero, the device will live 25 feet underground, protecting the First Creek watershed from litter and pollutants washed into the waterways from the Magnolia Avenue corridor during rains.

It’s similar to the one that the City installed at Second Creek as part of the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project. (Click HERE to read about that water quality device.)

On Magnolia Avenue, a six-foot diameter Hydro International Downstream Defender will filter the City’s stormwater system at Jessamine Street near the Knoxville Area Transit maintenance facility.

Water Quality Unit on Magnolia Avenue at Jessamine Street
The installed stormwater quality unit on Magnolia Avenue at Jessamine Street.

This device will act as a filter to catch cigarette butts, soda cans and other larger objects. It will also suspend hydrocarbons (or components of petroleum) and oils that run off the street during rains. Click HERE to view detailed information about the device.

Phase I of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project is slated to be complete in summer 2019 and will include landscaped center medians with designated left turn lanes, new stamped crosswalks, designated on-street parking, traffic signal upgrades, street trees and landscaping, LED pedestrian and street lighting, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

Next month, crews will move to the next leg, extending the streetscape work eastward to Bertrand Street.

At its Dec. 18, 2018, meeting, City Council approved the $2.87 million contract to execute construction for Phase II of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project from Myrtle to Bertrand Street. McKinnon Construction will be doing the work on this phase and is expected to begin in February 2019.

For more information, visit

Construction Progress Continues On Magnolia Ave. - 11/05/2018

You may have noticed a large hole on Magnolia Avenue -- this is a good thing!

Magnolia Ave Stormwater

Crews have dug 25 feet down to tie in the new stormwater system.

In the coming weeks, Jessamine Street will see a closure while a new water quality unit is installed.

Sign up for our project text alerts by texting MAGNOLIA to 313131.

Magnolia Ave Stormwater

Phase 1 Begins! Groundbreaking Ceremony Held Aug. 9, 2018 - 09/14/2018

Mayor Madeline Rogero, City Council members, City staff and Magnolia Avenue stakeholders broke ground on the first phase of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 10 a.m. at Jessamine Street at Magnolia Avenue.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

The first of the two-phase Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project will make upgrades to a section of Magnolia Avenue between Jessamine Street and Myrtle Street. Improvements will include landscaped center medians with designated left turn lanes, new stamped crosswalks, designated on-street parking, traffic signal upgrades, street trees and landscaping, LED pedestrian and street lighting, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

The upgraded multi-modal street will improve pedestrian safety at intersection crossings, encourage walkability with wider, tree-lined sidewalks, and make it easier for people to bike and access transit services along Magnolia Avenue. 

Mayor Rogero and some City staff will arrive at Thursday’s groundbreaking by riding the Knoxville Area Transit Route 31-Magnolia Avenue bus. 

Ground Breaking

One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained on Magnolia Avenue throughout the project, and pedestrian access through the work zone – and access to businesses – will be maintained at all times. 

The first phase of the project is scheduled to be finished by fall 2019. At that time, the second phase – Magnolia between Myrtle and Bertrand streets – is slated to begin.

Follow the progress of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project at

Magnolia Gateway Monument to Define Space in East Knoxville - 09/14/2018

Magnolia Gateway Monument rendering

Soon, drivers, bus riders, bicyclists and pedestrians will be welcomed by the 10-foot-tall, 25-foot-wide Magnolia Gateway Monument, which will serve as an entryway into the East Knoxville community.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, City Council approved the $68,000 contract with The Franklin Group, LLC to build the Magnolia Gateway Monument Project, which will be constructed on the northeastern corner of Jessamine Street at Magnolia Avenue.

The gateway monument is a component of the $4.18 million initial phase of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project. Orange barrels have already been rolled out on the northern lane of Magnolia Avenue as crews have been working to improve and expand drainage infrastructure.

The Office of Redevelopment and Engineering Department oversee the streetscape improvements project and presented the initial designs for the monument to local stakeholders including neighborhood groups and business organizations at the following meetings: 

  • East Knoxville Business Association- January 25, 2018
  • Parkridge Neighborhood Association – April 2, 2018
  • Town Hall East Neighborhood Association – May 14, 2018

“This new gateway monument established along Magnolia Avenue will identify this East Knoxville community by defining a sense of space and providing a destination specific to each traveler along this route,” said Dawn Michelle Foster, Director of the Redevelopment Department. “To neighborhood residents, it’s your home; to TDOT, it’s a state highway; to visitors to Zoo Knoxville, The Muse, and Chilhowee Park, it’s an alternative to I-40; and it’s also a link for East Knoxville to our downtown, so this monument has an all-encompassing purpose of serving everyone.”

Because Magnolia Avenue is a state highway, the gateway monument also had to follow strict TDOT design guidelines for gateway monuments and transportation art.

Construction for the monument is expected to begin in mid-2019.

For more information on the Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project, visit

Open House Set as Construction Kickoff Nears on Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project - 07/19/2018

Magnolia Avenue streetscape construction gets underway next month.

Construction gets underway next month on the $4.18 million first phase of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscape Project.

The community is invited to ask questions and learn more about the project at an open house, 5:30-7 p.m. Monday, July 23, at the John T. O’Connor Senior Center, 611 Winona St. 

City Engineering and Redevelopment staff will be there Monday to talk with stakeholders one on one. Also at this open house will be Vaughn and Melton, which is providing construction engineering and inspection services, and the general contractor, The Franklin Group.

The first of the two-phase streetscape project will make upgrades to a section of Magnolia Avenue between Jessamine Street and Myrtle Street. Improvements will include landscaped center medians with designated left turn lanes, new stamped crosswalks, designated on-street parking, traffic signal upgrades, street trees and landscaping, LED pedestrian and street lighting, and wider sidewalks and bike lanes.

Work will begin on the north side of Magnolia Avenue at Jessamine Street, and it will progress eastward to Myrtle Street. Then, the work will shift to the south side of Magnolia and move westward back to Jessamine.

One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained on Magnolia Avenue throughout the project, and pedestrian access through the work zone – and access to businesses – will be maintained at all times.

The first phase of the project is scheduled to be finished by fall 2019. At that time, the second phase – a stretch of Magnolia from Myrtle Street to Bertrand Street – will begin.

Text “Magnolia” to 313131 to receive project updates. For more details and to follow a project blog, visit

Maker Space Available in Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District - 07/18/2018

City officials are soliciting proposals for private redevelopment of the vacant building at 1200 McCalla Ave., in the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District,

Looking for a new Maker space? The City is seeking Requests for Proposals from parties interested in buying and rejuvenating a 6,033-square-foot vacant building that's right smack dab in the middle of the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District.

Proposals for the redevelopment of 1200 McCalla Ave. are due by 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 11. Click here for complete details.

A meeting with City Office of Redevelopment and Purchasing Department staff has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, at the property. Anyone with questions or interest in bringing the 1200 McCalla Ave. building back into private reuse as a small-scale manufacturing site is invited to attend.

Last year, Smart Growth America visited the City of Knoxville for a three-day community assessment on small-scale manufacturing in the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District. 

One of the SGA staff recommendations was to transform vacant City-owned properties into Maker space by giving priority to proposals that highlight incorporating small-scale manufacturing tenant space. For example, that could include a woodworking or glass-blowing shop - or a 3D printing operation.

Ideas gathered during a well-attended May 17 Open House were incorporated into the Request for Proposals for the sale of the property, which fronts three streets - Willow, South Bell and McCalla.

Construction Proposals Sought for Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project; Work to Begin This Summer - 01/31/2018

Look for construction to get underway on the Magnolia Avenue streetscapes project this summer.

Work is expected to start this summer on the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project. But first, the City will select a general contractor to do the multi-million-dollar project.

Bids are due by 11 a.m. on Feb. 20. A pre-bid conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. next Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Room 301 at the City's Engineering Department offices, Public Works Service Center, 3131 Morris Ave.

The selected contractor will manage the makeover of 2,600 linear feet of curbs, sidewalks, signal improvements, crosswalks, pedestrian and street lighting, and landscaping on a six-block stretch of Magnolia, between Jessamine and Bertrand streets. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019.

Magnolia Avenue is already a “complete street,” accommodating motorists, bicyclists, transit riders and pedestrians. But the City’s goal is to enhance the corridor. In addition to providing safer amenities for all users, the infrastructure upgrades will encourage neighborhood-serving commercial development along the corridor.

Proposed improvements include a gateway monument entry sign; raised landscaped center median and designated left-turn locations; improved bike lanes; and bus pull-offs. Underground utility lines will also be upgraded, and new street trees and landscaping will be planted.

Streetscape amenities include attractive new street and pedestrian scaled lighting, wider sidewalks, benches and bike racks. Three major signalized intersections will be upgraded and will include stamped asphalt crosswalks to enhance both aesthetics and pedestrian safety.

To access the Purchasing Department documents detailing the project and how to submit a proposal, visit

Magnolia Avenue and Open Streets Event - 05/26/2017

On Sunday, May 21st Knoxville's fourth Open Streets event took place transforming a mile of Magnolia Avenue into an open arena for pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, and no automobiles. Read about this event on the City's Blog post A Mile Without Cars: Magnolia Avenue Blooms at Open Streets.


Click on Open Streets Knoxville to find out more about this organization and future event in South Knoxville on Sunday, October 29th.

Phase II Funding for Fiscal Year 2017/2018 - 05/05/2017


In Mayor Rogero's State of the City address she shared how Knoxville is benefiting from new investment and energy across the city. In an effort to continue to build on that momentum, the Mayor introduced a list of major initiatives in next year's proposed budget.

Funding for phase two of the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project was one of those proposed capital improvements listed. The proposed $5 million will allow for construction of the entire model block from Jessamine Street to N. Bertrand Street.    

Find out more about the Mayor's proposed fiscal year 2017/2018 proposed budget here.     

KAT Employee Parking Lot Complete - 04/17/2017

The new KAT employee parking lot at the corner of Jessamine St. and Magnolia Ave. is complete. Approximately 39 new parking spaces were added for KAT employees.




Zoo Knoxville's New Gateway Monument - 03/24/2017

Zoo Knoxville is taking the anticipation of arriving at Knoxville's most wildly fun destination quite literally to the streets. Construction is underway on the gateway entry signage featuring a larger-than-life rendition of the zoo's colorful new logo at the corner of Rutledge Pike and Timothy St./Knoxville Zoo Drive.

This installation addresses a challenge identified as part of the zoo's strategic plan, which was that the zoo entrance was hard to find, especially for tourists traveling from outside of Knoxville. The playful sculpture with lighting and complimentary landscaping will create a sense of arrival for guests to the City's largest tourist attraction.

The project is scheduled for completion by May 1, in time to welcome the 250,000 plus tourists expected to visit in 2017. The gateway enhancements were designed by Johnson Architecture, Inc., and fabricated by Urban Sign. Blaine Construction is the general contractor and Partners Development the project manager.



Smart Growth America to Focus on Possibilities of Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District - 02/14/2017

What's the potential for lots of small locally-owned businesses to sprout up along the Magnolia Avenue corridor? In its next chapter, will the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District become an economic powerhouse that creates jobs?

Smart Growth America recognizes that diamond-in-the-rough potential - as well as the City of Knoxville's tools and willingness to rekindle business growth.

The non-profit picked the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District as one of just four projects nationally for the launch of its new Small Scale Manufacturing and Place Based Economic Development technical assistance program. The City's Office of Redevelopment and Community Development Department partnered with the Metropolitan Planning Commission in seeking the Smart Growth America expertise.

In the first half of 2017, Smart Growth America will be talking with East Knoxville stakeholders, residents and entrepreneurs and conducting open workshops to frame the possibilities for the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District, which stretches from the Old City to Bertrand Street, and from Interstate 40 to Summit Hill Drive. 

The Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District is one of four projects chosen nationally by Smart Growth America to receive business-support planning assistance this year.

The staff at Smart Growth America believes in helping every town and city become a more economically prosperous, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable place to live. The goals may differ for every community, but the aim is always to improve lives by improving neighborhoods.

The Smart Growth America expertise will focus on "place-making" on Magnolia Avenue and "place-based economic development."

"The first thing to understand is what 'small-scale manufacturing' is," said Bryan Berry, Project Manager with the City's Office of Redevelopment. "That doesn't mean a big factory with an assembly line. It is typically a small business with fewer than 10 employees - like an artist's workshop, a glassmaker, a woodworker or a craft brewer. They produce small-scale handcrafted products for a niche market, but can sell anywhere thanks to the Internet.

"Of course, the beauty of the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District is that it already has its own distinct character. As the district revitalizes, we want it to continue to represent the diverse communities that are a part of the district."

Census data shows that small businesses with fewer than 10 employees made up 53 percent of all manufacturers in Knoxville in 2002. In 2007, that number increased to 58 percent, while the latest data shows 62 percent of Knoxville manufacturers in 2012 had fewer than 10 employees.

"This trend illustrates the shift from factories as historically large, isolated structures, to new models that are smaller and can integrate better with other land uses," Berry wrote in the SGA application.

This year, work will begin on an $8 million streetscape upgrade on Magnolia, between Jessamine and North Bertrand streets. That was cited in the SGA application as an example of the City's commitment to the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District. In fact, a total of $32 million is being invested on streetscapes on three corridors in the district.

Other tools that are being used include the City's Commercial Facade Grant Program. Over six years, more than $930,000 has been spent in partnership with property owners as they have invested in rejuvenating their buildings.

The modernization of the City's zoning ordinance and the City's embrace of entrepreneurship and the Makers Movement also are cited in the City's application to Smart Growth America.

Other communities being assisted by Small Growth America technical assistance this year are Lowell, Mass.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Youngstown and Warren, Ohio.

KAT Enhances Lot at Magnolia Ave. and Jessamine St. - 01/27/2017

One of the early improvements to Magnolia Avenue in the project area will be the upgrade of the former Dixie Lounge and parking area into a new transit parking facility for KAT employees. While KAT bus operators spend their days transporting passengers through the streets of Knoxville, they themselves don’t have that luxury, since someone has to be behind the wheel early in the morning when buses start rolling. As KAT services have grown, so have their employee rolls and their need for parking.

KAT purchased the property adjacent to the Operations and Maintenance Facility in the spring of 2015 and began planning for parking expansion. The newly designed area will feature extensive landscaping and greening, a decorative fence and a new transit shelter, allowing employees to park and ride in to Knoxville Station, as many do to begin their shifts.

“KAT is very excited about the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project and the positive changes taking place,” says Dawn Distler, Director of Transit for The City of Knoxville. “We’re glad to kick off the improvements and provide an enhanced transit stop for the neighborhood and a new park & ride facility for our employees.”

The project is now in full swing and expected to be completed in March.


Smart Growth America Application for Small-Scale Manufacturing - 01/20/2017

On January 6th, 2017, the City’s Office of Redevelopment, Community Development, and the Knoxville/Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission applied to SGA for technical assistance to help integrate small-scale manufacturing into the Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District (MAWD). Historically, factories have been viewed as large, polluting, and isolated structures, but are now giving way to new models that are clean, small, and can be readily integrated with other land uses. Smart Growth America’s technical assistance would provide recommendations on how to better re-purpose the warehouse district for small-scale manufacturing and placed-based economic development.

If selected, SGA will facilitate a two-to-three-day workshop and provide a customized action plan that identifies next steps and resources available for implementation. The workshops will be designed to help identify existing assets and how they can be harnessed to develop small-scale manufacturing in the MAWD. The assistance also includes stakeholder interviews that will be incorporated into the final report.

Successful proposers will be notified on or by January 27, 2017. Expect more news to follow if Knoxville is selected.

For a link to the submitted application (click here).

End of Year (2016) - Project Status Update - 12/27/2016

With 2016 coming to a close, it is always good to take a moment and, as the old cliché goes, “look back on where you have been, for a clue to where you are going.” In light of that, here are milestones and accomplishments from this past year on the Magnolia Avenue Streetscape project that will help set the stage for what to expect in 2017.

Public meeting on January 21, 2016 to present preliminary designs for streetscape improvements to the model block section along Magnolia Avenue. Participants and citizens provided comments on the design and general thoughts on the project.

•   Public comment period.
•   City staff addressed all comments received from the public meeting. Input from the public meeting and discussions with property owners on site provided additional information during the design phase.

•   All comments received posted to the City website (as seen here). 
•   City staff review of 40% preliminary design plans.

•   Continue with design review period.
•   The consultant addressed City comments and revised the plans accordingly.

•   Utility coordination meeting held on May 3, 2016 with representatives from the Knoxville Utility Board and AT&T present.
•   Consultant and City staff met with TDOT on May 24, 2016 to discuss their review of the 40% preliminary design.

•   Preliminary designs updated to address TDOT comments.
•   An updated typical cross-section of the streetscape (as seen here).

July through October
•   Utility coordination continued with AT&T regarding drainage design and how to accommodate existing AT&T utility duct banks.

•   City staff review of 70% preliminary design plans.

•   Detail design work continues with TDOT to provide comments on the 70% preliminary design.
•   Submittal of final design to the City is anticipated in January or February 2017.

Next Steps in 2017 (Anticipated timeline with dates and months subject to change)
•   January to June - Right-of-way process 
•   Summer 2017 - Invitation to bid 
•   Fall 2017 - Notice to proceed for construction 
•   Spring 2019 - Construction completion