The Daily Plan-It: Books Sandwiched In, ‘The Miracle Worker,’ and Landlady

Good morning! I think it finally feels like fall! Stay warm today. And take a look at what’s going on around town.

The Market Square Farmers’ Market stands go up at 11 a.m. and come down at 2 p.m. Get there for some mid-weeks snacks and veggies!

At noon in the visitor center, the Last Tycoon will perform during WDVX’s Blue Plate Special, along with Shady Banks. It’s free to attend, as always.

But if you’re more interested in hearing what one author thinks the next 50 years on earth in terms of climate change will be like, Dr. Jack Fellows, who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering, will be on hand at the East Tennessee History Center at noon to discuss journalist Mark Hertsgaard’s book Hot: Living Through the Next 50 Years on Earth. The discussion is part of the library’s Books Sandwiched In series, and it’s free to attend. Bring a sandwich! Drinks will be available for 50 cents.

Don’t forget to catch a performance of The Miracle Worker, about Helen Keller and her tutor Annie Sullivan, at the Clarence Brown Theatre. The show starts at 7:30 tonight, and tickets are $22-$42. Buy them here.

Wrap up the night at the Pilot Light, where Brooklyn indie rockers Landlady (which is actually a group of dudes, and no ladies) will perform, along with Adia Victoria and Senryu. Cover’s $6. 18+ only.

The Daily Plan-It: Yoga, Deicide, and Charlie Parr

Good morning! Stay dry today while you’re out and about!

At noon, the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church will have a gentle yoga and meditation class. Donations will be accepted. For more info call (865) 577-2021 or email

The Harvey Broome Group—that’s the local chapter of the Sierra Club—will meet at the TVUUC at 7 p.m. to talk about outdoor recreation, conservation, and ecology. For more info on the group, check out its website.

If death metal is more up your alley, check out Florida band Deicide, who’ll play at the Concourse with Septicflesh, Inquisition, Abysmal Dawn, and Carach Angren. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22-$25. Buy them here. 18+ only.

Need a laugh? Head over to Scruffy City Hall around 8 p.m. to catch Einstein Simplified, Knoxville’s longest-running comedy improv troupe, perform. 21+ only.

Wrap up the night at Barley’s, where Minnesotan Charlie Parr will play his brand of classic folk-blues on his guitar and banjo. 21+ only.

The Daily Plan-It: Children’s Story Time, Green Party Discussion, and the Contortionist

Good morning! It was a soggy weekend, wasn’t it? And it’s a soggy Monday, so here’s what’s going on around town that might brighten it up.

At 11 a.m., Smart Toys and Books will have children’s story time. Perhaps appropriately, the theme this week is boats. It’s free to attend! For more info call the store at (865) 691-1154 or take a look at its website.

Amy Black will perform during WDVX’s Blue Plate Special at noon in the visitor center, along with the Paisley Fields. As always, it’s free to attend.

The Knoxville Green Party will have a discussion group meeting at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria at 7 p.m. For more info call (865) 523-6775.

Prog-metal outfit the Contortionist will perform at the Concourse, along with Intervals and Polyphia. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets cost $12-$15. Buy them here.

Wrap up the night at the Preservation Pub, where the Great Socio will perform at 10 p.m. 21+ only. Cover’s $3.

Urban Land Institute’s Presentation

Seven representatives of the international planning organization known as the Urban Land Institute sat on the stage at the Bijou Theatre this morning and offered, to a crowd of several hundred, including most of the architects, developers, and politicians you’d expect, their impressions of the city’s problems du jour. After five days of intensive study, and meeting with 143 community representatives, they discussed five problem areas currently perplexing the city: World’s Fair Park, and proposals to build on parts of it; west Jackson Avenue, including the sites vacated by the burned and demolished McClung Warehouses; the Civic Coliseum and Auditorium; the old Supreme Court site, which seems to have buffaloed one developer after another; and adjacent Henley Street, which for many years has been described as a barrier between downtown and the UT/Fort Sanders area, as well as a deterrent to development.

World’s Fair Park should be “off limits to development,” including Clarence Brown Theatre’s proposal, they advised. Henley Street needed to be fixed to make it better for both pedestrians and businesses, the sooner the better. West Jackson was “low-hanging fruit,” and they proposed that inevitable development be carefully coordinated. The east side of downtown, including the neighborhood of the Civic Coliseum, was grossly underdeveloped, and could be restored by reversing the bad choices of the urban-renewal era. And the Supreme Court site showed potential for major mixed-use construction.
Leigh Ferguson, longtime Chattanooga developer and a leader of that city’s dramatic turnaround several years ago, and now downtown-development coordinator in New Orleans, chaired the presentation. The jocular, easygoing Ferguson was one of only two who admitted to any experience with Knoxville before this week. Other members, architect Angelo Carusi of Atlanta (a UT grad, he’s the other who knows his way around); Nick Egelanian of Annapolis; Mary Konsoulis of Alexandria, Va.; Ed Starzec, of Boston; Julie Underdahl and Andrew Irvine, both of Denver, spoke in turn. Irvine is an architect originally from Australia, whose colorfully language made him a crowd favorite, even as he occasionally cut to the bone.

They generally liked downtown, a marked contrast to their predecessors in 1998, when the city invited a different ULI group to recommend siting for the Convention Center. That previous group was frank about the fact that Knoxville might not have enough appeal to attract major conventions.
The new consultants (who included none of the previous visitors) seemed especially impressed with the round-the-clock liveliness of Market Square, and the fact that it wasn’t driven just by tourists (Irvine even remarked on the “beautiful alley” adorned with murals, behind the Square’s east side); Gay Street’s “Theater District”; and the downtown residential market, which they said was at “full absorption.” The major Marble Alley residential development is needed, they say, and will be fully absorbed, too. Several used the word “unique” to describe it, and Eglanian referred to the “authentic texture and real heritage” of downtown.

They expressed concerns about downtown’s declining office market, and the middling hotel market, with relatively low room rates ($76) and only 60 percent occupancy. The called out the striking exception of the Oliver, in the renovated 1876 Kern Building on Market Square, which has room rates over $100, and virtually 100 percent occupancy. They seemed surprised at the amount of retail in the suburbs, especially at West Town and Turkey Creek, which they said went beyond what might be expected for the market, and a challenge to downtown retail. The warned about the “Civic District” dominating the southern part of downtown, which, lacking residences and focused on M-F, 9-5 office work, might invite crime because it’s not watched closely at night or on weekends. They also remarked on downtown’s very poor connections to the redeveloped riverfront. Underdahl remarked on downtown’s gaps of underused land, especially surface parking lots, and noted that downtown had long to go before it was finished, and that it still lacked many basic services, including schools. “Innovation is rampant in the downtown industry,” she remarked, and had heard some frustration in Knoxville that just as we arrive, other cities keep raising the bar for what a downtown can be.

And they regarded James White Parkway as a major problem, as wasted space and a significant barrier on the eastern edge of downtown, implying that as far as they could tell it was built for game-day traffic, only a few days a year–while praising the KAT transit center as a successful attempt to remediate part of it. In general, though, Irvine remarked, Knoxville’s “exquisite downtown is dressed like a tramp on the east.” And even if Knoxville’s determined to maintain that much acreage for the benefit of Vol fans seven days a year, at least they should have a good impression of downtown while they’re racing to and from the game.

The Coliseum area is grossly underused, they observed, and recommended undoing urban renewal by redeveloping the swaths of empty space around it, including the police station. They didn’t make a recommendation on whether to keep the building, but the morning’s biggest surprise may have been the suggestion that many of the Civic Coliseum’s shows be moved to a new facility more integral to downtown, specifically the Supreme Court site between Henley and Locust–with pro hockey games to be placed at still another unbuilt facility, perhaps on the northern fringe of downtown.

They recommended the city complete the long-envisioned (and according to them, funded) greenway from World’s Fair Park to the Old City, along the old rail yards. Irvine recommmended the city engage with the railroads about right of way on the seemingly underused expanse of freight yard, several of the tracks built to serve wholesale houses that are no longer there.

Like the 1998 group, they recommended unearthing Second Creek and doing something about the train tracks through World’s Fair Park (both proposals that local experts said, 16 years ago, were nearly impossible). Irvine also brought up the idea of “daylighting” First Creek, as part of a full redeveloped east side of downtown. It was buried beneath James White Parkway in the 1960s. “People love water,” he said. “Looking at water, hearing water.”

Starzec remarked that Henley is a major problem for pedestrians, that when their own members attempted to cross it on foot, they had to wait through two light cycles, and that the structures along it had “turned their backs to the street.” He and Carusi recommended devoting one lane on each side of the wide road to parallel parking, extend the new Henley Bridge bicycle lanes down Henley itself, and “cultivate the edge” of downtown by bringing buildings and activity to the street. They recommended an Request for Proposals for the Supreme Court site, soon, because the option expires next August, perhaps to include (the aforementioned surprise) a performing-arts venue that might appeal to the UT community as well as replace some events currently scheduled for the Civic Coliseum.

But not necessarily Clarence Brown Theatre, which one speaker vaguely suggested being rebuilt on a site on the eastern side of World’s Fair Park’s fledgling arts district, perhaps with the MUSE children’s museum on the other side.

The “low-hanging fruit” of Jackson Avenue needs a “master developer” to take the lead on what could be a major mixed-use attraction. Carusi took a stab at sketching a collection of rather large urban buildings to almost one-up what was there before, with the late-Victorian McClung warehouses, with a mixture of offices, residences, retail, and other uses.

The recommended hiring a new director or two, perhaps via KCDC, to oversee downtown development and push it forward daily.

There were lots of questions, including the inevitable one concerning parking, which a Knoxvillian cited as the reason for downtown’s soft office market. “It’s not a God-given right to have parking,” noted Irvine, in his Australian accent. “The automobile has controlled our lives for so many years.” While admitting they didn’t study overall parking downtown in great detail, the committee’s impression was that downtown Knoxville has plenty of that–but that effective communication of where the parking is might indeed be an issue.

City Chief Policy Officer Bill Lyons closed the discussion after an hour and a half, thanking the group, and citing Mayor Madeline Rogero’s response that her administration was “fascinated and challenged in a very positive way.”

The ULI will work on a fuller version of the report, to be published in weeks to come; some aspects of the report, including the power-point slides from this morning’s presentation, will soon by online via the city’s website.

The Weekend Plan-It: Museum of Appalachia Fall Homecoming, KHFF Zombie Movie Night, and the Turkish Food Fest

Good morning! It’s the weekend! Even though it might be a little dreary out, there’s plenty going on this weekend to keep you busy. Take a look!

The Museum of Appalachia Fall Homecoming kicks off at 9 a.m. and continues through the weekend. Go celebrate the things that make our region unique. Tickets are $18. More info here.

UT’s Science Forum will feature Joan Rentsch, professor of communication studies, who will speak on “Communicating to Build Knowledge in Decision-Making Teams” at noon in the dining room C-D at Thompson-Boling Arena. The talk is free to attend and open to the public. More info here.

The Knoxville Museum of Art’s Alive After 5 music series kicks off the fall season with performances from Soul Connection and local R&B legend and member of the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame Clifford Curry. The music starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Cereus Bright will perform at the Bijou Theatre at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.50. Buy them here.

Local indie rockers Gamenight will perform at Scruffy City Hall with Guy Marshall and Baseball. The show starts at 10 p.m. 21+ only.

The UT Arboretum Society’s plant sale starts at 9 a.m. More info on the event and what’s being sold is here.

The Lonsdale Community Market opens at 12 p.m. next to the Lonsdale School, and will feature family-made food and crafts, music, and activities for children.

The Knoxville Horror Film Festival’s zombie movie marathon at Ijams Nature Center starts at 6 p.m. For $10, you get a double zombie feature, and access to local food trucks, vendors, beer, and…(duh) zombies! Dressing up for the occasion is encouraged.

The Rioult Dance NY company will perform at the Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19-$36. Buy them here.

Soul singer/songwriter Caleb Hawley will perform at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria at 10 p.m. 21+ only.

The Turkish Food Festival starts at 11 a.m. at the Tennessee Istanbul Cultural Center on Middlebrook Pike.  Go check out some cool crafts and tasty food. It’s free to attend.

Five Finger Death Punch will perform at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, along with Volbeat, H*llyeah, and Nothing More. The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $42.50. Buy them here.

Folkies the Devil Makes Three will perform at the Bijou Theatre with the Cave Singers at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.50-$20. Buy them here.

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