Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Construction Update - October 1, 2009

Work is progressing on the reconstruction of Fire Street Alley. The last phase near the O.P. Jenkins parking lot will begin on Monday, and we hope to have this phase of the project completed by late next week. There is still a little utility work there to complete as well.

Several water meters are to be installed in the 100 Block beginning next week. This should complete this portion of the infrastructure work for this utility for awhile.

KUB continues to work on energizing the newly installed electrical service in this area. The pictures below show the new transformer being installed into the new vault. Thanks to Keavon Ray for sending these to me. This continued work should allow us to continue on into the 200 Block of S. Gay Street as we have previously discussed by the middle of the month.

We also are hopeful that we can begin the work on the structural columns and then begin the sidewalk construction toward the middle of the month as well. Most of the issues have finally been settled so I know we are all looking forward to that work progressing.

I plan to schedule a meeting in October so please forward to me any agenda items you might want to have discussed.

I have been notified, and have noticed myself, that the 'We are Open' sign at Jackson has been down. Unfortunately that sign is not looking too good these days and has become almost impossible to keep up due to its tattered condition. I plan to discuss signage at our meeting as I believe it is obviously time to erect a new sign of some sort.

Our negotiations concerning the Jackson Avenue parking lot continue to go well. We still are planning improvements including signage there.

I know many of you have been interested in the timeline of the reconstruction of the Jackson Avenue ramps. After much discussion we have decided that the best course of action is to continue on as we have originally planned.

Here is a statement sent to some folks we have been meeting with concerning this issue distributed by Bob Whetsel, Director of Redevelopment within my Department.

'As some of you know but others may not, the city has decided to continue working on the Ramp replacement project using federal dollars allocated through the state bridge program. This means that the design process will be controlled by the Federal 4(f) process because of the historic nature of the structure. In practical terms this means that construction of the ramps is still several years out. I am not going to try time estimates except to say that 2013 is probably the earliest any project might begin and that would be optimistic. Cost to local government was the primary driver for the decision.

If there is structure failure during that time we will have to mitigate the situation as we did a few months ago when the Ramp was closed for a few days for repairs.'

Lastly, many thanks to Lt. Bobby Hubbs of the Knoxville Police Department who is retiring with over 30 years of service. Lt. Hubbs has been instrumental to many of our crime initiatives in the downtown area particularly and will be missed by many of us. He is going to work for the Knox County Sheriff in a newly formed crime analysis unit and I know we all wish him well in this new endeavor.

Another First Friday will roll around tomorrow and I know there are some exciting events planned at the Emporium and other venues so I look forward to seeing you there.

As always, thanks for your interest and suggestions.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fire Street Alley closure on Wed., Sept. 30

The Contractor wanted me to let everyone know that the Fire Street Alley will be completely blocked off for all traffic, including pedestrian, on Wed. Sept 30, from 7:00 AM until as late as 5:00 PM to pour concrete. Should be reopened that night. Hopefully we will finish up this week.

Please help me get the word out. Thanks

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Construction Update - September 22, 2009

Work continues in Fire Street alley and is scheduled to be completed in a couple of weeks. The old asphalt has been taken up and additional grading is being completed in the next week before stone is brought in and eventually a new concrete surface constructed. This pic is taken from below Jackson Avenue in front of Heuristics Workshop.

Electrical utility work is still on schedule as KUB has had two crews working to energize the newly installed electric service. A part of this work involves taking out the old transformer residing in an old electric vault in front of the Sterchi Building. Gordon Bryant of KUB sent me these interesting pictures of that transformer being installed over forty eight years ago in 1961. I find the background of these pictures interesting as well as it show some of the businesses and street traffic. This transformer weighed in at around 6500 pounds.

I found the picture above interesting in that the poster on the light pole appears to be for a United Way campaign.

This is a pic of the old transformer being removed. The old vault under the sidewalk will be demolished as part of the sidewalk construction process.

Some work is going on under the sidewalk on the west side of S. Gay Street as the coal shoots we have discovered going into many of the buildings are being covered up with steel plates in anticipation of the new construction.

Electric work is also being done in the sidewalk near the entrances to Havana Nights and Skyline Exhibits. This work should be completed this week. Note the massive old trolley rails. I have been told these weigh almost 100 pound per foot.

Thanks for your interest.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Construction Update - September 17, 2009

As many of you are aware, we have started the reconstruction project for the Fire Street alley. Most of the work will occur during daylight hours so the alley should be available most of the time after hours for foot traffic. At least some of the time, however, the conditions for traversing will not be ideal, especially with the rain events we have been experiencing. The alley functions, in some regard, as a drainage way as well as a travel way. The work is expected to take less than a month.

For those of you who may be reading this now and were unaware of this work I apologize. The decision to begin this work was made only two weeks ago and we tried, through this forum and through some selected phone calls and emails, to let folks know but I have since learned that not everyone was notified. I am thankful that many of you forward my posts to others who have an interest and encourage you all to continue that. I have a list of folks I send notices of the blog updates, usually every Thursday, and if anyone would like to be on that notification list, please let me know at

KUB crews continue to make progress in their work required to energize the newly installed electric service. They have been using two crews at least some of the time and we hope that stays on schedule so we can then move into the 200 Block construction as discussed previously.
We are hopeful that the 200 Block Construction can occur around the first of October.

The complicated process of trying to determine the best way to go about construction of the supporting columns under the sidewalk continues. We cannot begin work on the roadway itself until we also begin the work on the sidewalk because of probable damage to the roadway from the heavy equipment needed for the sidewalk construction.

Everyone associated with the project is as frustrated as the folks on the block that we have not been able, so far, to begin that phase of work on the 100 Block but we all remain hopeful that this work can begin very soon.

On a more positive note, the Engineers tell me we are one third of the way through the project and have accomplished one third of the work and spent one third of the budgeted amount of money so from that perspective we are on target. We have had to completely rephase all of the work, however, from our original plan. Almost all of the utility work has been finished on the 100 Block with this last bit of electric work KUB is doing, and much of the utility work has also been completed on the 200 Block. A few days of utility work remain on Jackson Avenue at the completion of the project.

We have been able to keep traffic flowing on Jackson Avenue although the original plans called for a complete closure. The same is true for Vine Avenue. We have managed to accommodate the influx of folks moving in and out on the 100 Block and have created various crossing points for folks on the block. The willingness of the folks at Southern Constructors to make suggestions and find ways to work for the benefit of the folks on the Block is refreshing and I know everyone is appreciative.

As many of you know, the Contractors, Subcontractors, Engineers and others have been working there almost seven months and I believe most of them feel they have become a small part of the community. I know in our construction meetings, the effect on folks on the block for the various work phases is very much on the mind of everyone in the room. All of the issues from parking to vagrancy are witnessed and shared by those folks. Many of them now frequent the shops and restaurants on the Block and downtown and are looking forward to making this one of the premier areas of the City.

I am very grateful to all of them for continuing to let me know of possible issues and ongoing problems so I can note them here. It has been and is a team effort and I continue to be grateful to folks on the 100 Block for their patience and understanding.

We had an unfortunate occurrence earlier in the week in that a gas line ruptured in the excavation process. This happened right at the lunch hour unfortunately and I was notified immediately. The Construction crews apologized profusely to me although it was just an inadvertent mistake, one of the very few made so far. The repair was made in a couple of hours and the whole event may have lasted three hours.

In closing, we realize the seriousness of timing and are working as hard as we can to resolve all of the issues so we can complete this project as originally scheduled. I must point out once again that the target date for completion is August 2010, which is eleven months from now.

Thanks for your interest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Construction Update - September 10, 2009

Plans are being made to begin the work on Fire Street alley as early as next week. We are waiting on Tennessee One Call to mark out the utilities before we begin and we expect that to be completed by the end of the week. Some of the utilities have already been marked and those of you who venture that way can see just how many utilities exist in that small area.

Still, we are hopeful that we can proceed as planned with minimal utility conflict there. The work will probably take close to a month, maybe less.

The phasing of work, as I understand it, will be to begin at Jackson Avenue going north with milling up the existing asphalt and surface, followed by some grading, and then finally pouring of concrete, probably in three phases.

We have discussed the issues of access for folks who use the parking garage across Fire Street as well as the garbage collection issues and hopefully can work around those situations with minimal disruption.

Electrical work appears to have accelerated on the 100 Block and we are hopeful that KUB will be far enough along that we can proceed with utility work, including final grade work, in the 200 Block of S. Gay Street as we had planned a few weeks ago. The work in the 200 Block may take up to three months but should have the finished look when completed.

We continue to have some issues to resolve with the supporting structures under the sidewalks and are working through yet another design and the costs associated. As soon as those issues are resolved, we will begin that work. We are still planning to start construction on the west sidewalk at Jackson Avenue.

The Jackson Avenue parking lot continues to get heavy use. I noted 130 cars parked there yesterday. As soon as we receive a written document from the owner, we will proceed with our planned signage and other possible upgrades.

Just to clarify from the most recent article by Hayes Hickman in the News- Sentinel concerning the Jackson Avenue parking lot acquisition, we intend to provide free parking at least until the end of the Streetscapes Project.

I attended another successful First Friday and was glad to see so many folks downtown and on the 100 Block. It was an eventful weekend for sure.

Thanks for your interest.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jackson Avenue Parking Lot

I have some good news!

This afternoon we have reached agreement on the City of Knoxville purchase of this property. I don't have any details but it seems we have regained control over this much needed free parking.

I'll post more later about this but we are grateful to the property owners for their assistance and willingness to work with us.

Construction Update - September 3, 2009

Due to some potential conflicts with KUB electrical service, we have decided to delay the construction on the 200 Block of S. Gay Street for some time, possibly a month.

In order to keep the project on schedule and to keep Contractors working, we now plan to go ahead and complete the work to be done in the Fire Street Alley between S. Gay Street and State Street behind the Sterchi and the Emporium. This work was phased for the end of construction but can also be completed now. It will involve milling up the pavement and asphalt and pouring concrete with some very minor utility work.

If anyone has any issues to be considered here, please notify me. I am aware of the garbage collection issues there and possible other access issues. These were situations that we knew we would have to deal with from the first. I also believe there may be some drainage issues which hopefully can be addressed as well.
We had what I believe was a very productive meeting today on the issue of column replacement and all parties seem to be working toward a resolution. I am very hopeful that I will be able to report on a timeline in the near future for work on the sidewalks.

I have relayed as best I know them, the various schedules and timing issues with folks on the 100 Block to the Contractor for consideration in the scheduling of work. Please continue to let me know your needs in this area.

The issue of the Jackson Avenue parking lot has now been resolved and the City will be purchasing the property as per our original terms as I understand it. Thanks to all who worked on this including the property owners and KCDC.

I believe Mr. Michael Haynes article in Metro Pulse today very correctly outlined the problem and issues and now we are a little closer to getting a handle on the issue of parking in the area.

I am looking forward to another successful First Friday tomorrow with Boomsday and also football to follow. I hope everyone has a nice Holiday and will hopefully see you on the 100 Block.

Thanks for your interest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jackson Avenue Parking Lot

Although I do not have a definitive confirmation of this yet, I thought I would pass along a bit of information I heard in our construction meeting this morning. Our Contractor told me that someone purporting to represent the property owner of the parking lot on Jackson Avenue told them that, possibly beginning as early as tomorrow, parking will not be allowed. Not sure exactly what that means but thought I would pass it on.

We are continuing our efforts to purchase this property but negotiations have not been productive to date.

As you know from my previous post, free parking is available under the James White Parkway on Jackson and also at Depot. As always the Coliseum lot is also available as well as many others. For a map and better list of available parking areas, please refer to the the City of Knoxville website at