What Makes a Community Livable?

Jana Lynott shared her message about community livability at three events in Knoxville on April 24 and 25, 2018, as part of the Active Knox speaker series.

These events were co-hosted by AARP Tennessee, with additional sponsorship by the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors.

Jana discussed AARP’s interest in making sure that communities design their streets and neighborhoods so that seniors can enjoy transportation choices and age in place if they choose.

More than 90 people attended a public event with Jana on April 24, and she also addressed the TPO’s Executive Board at their meeting on April 25. Her visit to Knoxville wrapped up with a presentation before about 40 elected and appointed officials at the Knoxville Chamber on April 25.

Jana is a senior strategic policy advisor for the Livable Communities Team in AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Her research and videography focus on a broad array of planning and policy issues including complete streets, public transportation and travel patterns. Most recently, Jana was responsible for bringing AARP’s groundbreaking Livability Index to fruition.

In her Knoxville events, Jana discussed how Knoxville and Knox County stack up in the Livability Index, and also Knoxville’s new membership in AARP’s network of Age-Friendly Communities.

Jana was the eighth speaker in the Active Knox series, which includes funding from the Tennessee Department of Health.

The next events will be in June, with the speaker and dates to be announced shortly. If you’d like to receive emails about the events, contact ellen.zavisca@knoxplanning.org.

Featuring Award-Winning Developer Jeff Randolph

Jeff Randolph, the most recent guest brought in by Active Knox for their ongoing speaker series, is president of The Randolph Group (TRG).

TRG is a land development company based in Greenville, SC that specializes in residential, urban infill and mixed-used communities. While in Knoxville he spoke to several groups, including an event at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce with elected and appointed officials, a public event, the Recode Knoxville Stakeholder Advisory Committee Meeting, and a lunch event with realtors and developers.

Randolph spoke about the importance of the group’s community development values, which include promoting vibrant neighborhoods, imaginative places, a sustainable impact, and community connections. He also stressed that Knoxville should grow organically and make decisions that are right for the city without trying to mimic another place. More details about each event are available:

  • Lunch at the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, November 14, with elected and appointed officials from around the region. There were 8 elected officials in attendance, and 14 planning commissioners. There were 35 total, including eight elected officials, 14 planning commissioners, and staff members.  The conversation featured questions about whether the type of development Randolph was discussing was feasible for East Tennessee’s topography. He discussed how land planning can be done with the features of the land, by clustering housing on flatter portions of a site.
  • The public event Tuesday night at Bearden High School featured a panel to respond to Randolph’s presentation. Panelists were realtor Joe Fox and developer Tim Hill and was moderated by Mary English from UTK’s Baker Center. Twenty-six community members were in attendance. Conversation after the presentation focused on the barriers to mixed-use developments in the Knoxville region. There was some discussion about Knoxville’s out-of-date zoning codes and the Recode Knoxville update in response.
  • On Wednesday, November 15, the Recode Knoxville Stakeholder Advisory Committee met for a regular meeting featuring Jeff as a guest speaker. It was also open to the public and had 36 community members in attendance. Randolph again spoke about mixed-use developments, but spent more time focused on the zoning code update. A full summary and recording of the event is available on the Recode Knoxville website.
  • Wednesday afternoon, there was a lunch and small group discussion with developers and realtors. The conversation was facilitated by Kristy Altman from Leadership Knoxville. In the conversation following his presentation, Randolph mentioned that he sells lots faster when there are a variety of housing types within a development (townhomes, duplexes, detached homes). There were comments from local developers about the challenge of finding banks that will invest in developers that aren’t typical for this region. Another challenge mentioned was finding builders willing to try something new.

Atlanta BeltLine: Connecting People Through Walkways and Trails

Rob Brawner, Executive Director of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, spoke several times in Knoxville on June 6 and 7.

The events and meetings attracted around 100 participants, including elected officials, planning commissioners, developers, designers, and members of the general public.

His presentations focused on the lessons that other communities can learn from the BeltLine, a partially completed project that will eventually encircle the heart of Atlanta with a network of trails and transit. Thus far, 8.7 miles of trails have been completed as part of the BeltLine and it has spurred $3.7 billion in economic development.

You can see Brawner’s presentation here.

Brawner was the sixth speaker to visit Knoxville as part of the ongoing Walkability Speaker Series, which is sponsored by the TPO in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health, East Tennessee Quality Growth, the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, the Knoxville Chamber, and the Knoxville Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The Walkability Speaker Series will take a break over the peak vacation months of summer, but will return in late August or September. To get on the email list for this speaker series, contact ellen.zavisca@knoxplanning.org.

Mixed-Use Neighborhoods

Emiko Atherton spoke in Knoxville on May 9 and 10 about the many benefits of walkable, smart development.

Atherton is the director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, which is part of Smart Growth America.

Three events with Atherton attracted a total of more than 100 participants, including elected officials, planning commissioners, developers, designers, and members of the general public. During these presentations she shared stories of communities that have attracted residents and businesses, and have saved money, by focusing on quality development and walkable places. More information on these types of places can be found in Smart Growth America’s report Amazing Place.

Atherton was the fifth speaker to visit Knoxville as part of the ongoing Walkability Speaker Series sponsored by the TPO in partnership with East Tennessee Quality Growth, the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, the Knoxville Chamber, and the Knoxville Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The next speaker in the series will be Rob Brawner from the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership on June 6 and 7. To get on the email list for this speaker series, contact ellen.zavisca@knoxplanning.org.

Retrofitting Suburbia for 21st-Century Challenges

Ellen Dunham-Jones visited the Knoxville area on April 4 and 5 for several events, sharing information about walkable suburban places with officials and the public.

Dunham-Jones shared case studies of communities that retrofitted suburban-style developments into more attractive, more walkable places with a better mix of uses and more greenery.

Dunham-Jones shared case studies of communities that retrofitted suburban-style developments into more attractive, more walkable places with a better mix of uses and more greenery. Demand for these types of retrofits is being driven by two key demographic groups: millennials and empty-nest boomers who desire urban amenities but don’t necessarily want to live in the urban core. Dunham-Jones literally wrote the book on suburban retrofitting, as co-author of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.”

More than 225 people attended the four sessions with Dunham-Jones, including a session for elected and appointed officials that had about 40 attendees.

Dunham-Jones’s visit was part of the ongoing Walkability Speaker Series sponsored by the TPO in partnership with the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors, the Knoxville Chamber, and East Tennessee Quality Growth.

The next events will be held on May 9 and 10 when Emiko Atherton speaks about mixed land use. There will also be presentations about the Atlanta Beltline on June 6 and 7. To be added to the email list for this speaker series, contact ellen.zavisca@knoxplanning.org.