Proposed 17-Story Apartment Building Sparks Controversy in Downtown Knoxville

Proposed 17-story apartment building in downtown Knoxville sparks debate over preserving city's charm; developers work to address concerns from residents and officials.

Nimrah Khatoon
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Proposed 17-Story Apartment Building Sparks Controversy in Downtown Knoxville

Proposed 17-Story Apartment Building Sparks Controversy in Downtown Knoxville

A proposal by South Carolina-based Woodfield Development to construct a 17-story, 290-unit apartment building near the Henley St. Bridge in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee has raised concerns among residents and collected nearly 600 signatures on a petition titled "Keep Knoxville Charming."

The project, named Hill Locust, would feature 12 stories of apartments atop a five-layer parking garage, potentially housing around 400 people.

Critics of the development are particularly concerned about the prominent back of the building, which faces the Tennessee River and is considered more visually prominent than the front. They argue that the multi-story parking garage and lack of engaging design elements are not appropriate for the neighborhood. The petition organizers contend that the building's size and the additional traffic it would bring could be hazardous and harmful to Knoxville's skyline.

Why this matters: The controversy surrounding the proposed apartment building highlights the ongoing tension between urban development and preserving the character of downtown areas. The outcome of this project could set a precedent for future high-rise developments in Knoxville and other cities facing similar challenges.

The Knoxville-Knox County Planning's Design Review Board has postponed a vote on the project to allow Woodfield Development to address these concerns. The board has suggested potential solutions, such as a public-private partnership to create a plaza on the back side of the building and incorporating more design elements to make it feel distinct to Knoxville.

This is not the first iteration of the project, which has been in the works since 2018 when the original 19-story design was shared as "The T at Riverfront." Despite the reduction to 17 stories, the proposal continues to face opposition from nearby residents and public policy experts who worry about its impact on the city's skyline and pedestrian activity in the area.

As of April 20, 2024, the Knoxville-Knox County Design Board has not yet approved or denied the application, but has provided recommendations for Woodfield Development to address issues related to pedestrian safety and engineering standards. The company has not publicly commented on the proposal or the petition. The future of the Hill Locust project remains uncertain as the developers work to find solutions that satisfy both their goals and the concerns of the community.

Key Takeaways

  • Woodfield Development has proposed a 17-story, 290-unit apartment in downtown Knoxville.
  • Meanwhile, residents raised concerns about the building's size, traffic, and impact on the skyline.
  • Design Review Board postponed a vote to address concerns, and suggested design changes.
  • The project is not the first iteration, previously proposed as a 19-story "The T at Riverfront".
  • The board has not yet approved or denied the application, awaiting Woodfield's response to recommendations.