published Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Inman Street renewal plans reviewed by Cleveland, Tenn., leaders

Clay Tapley paints a Five Points storefront Thursday next to Inman Street in downtown Cleveland, Tenn. In the background is another Five Points landmark, the old pharmacy building.
Clay Tapley paints a Five Points storefront Thursday next to Inman Street in downtown Cleveland, Tenn. In the background is another Five Points landmark, the old pharmacy building.
  • photo
    Jonathan Jobe, director of Cleveland's development & engineering services department. Contributed by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland leaders say they are keen to rejuvenate Inman Street, the eastern gateway to the city.

Public officials and local stakeholders took an in-depth look this week at how they might launch such a renewal, which targets the stretch of Inman Street between Gaut and East streets.

"Cities are now seeing what a positive impact an appealing gateway can have on a downtown," said Jonathan Jobe, director of Cleveland's Development and Engineering Services. "[We can do some things] that can spark redevelopment and increase property values for property owners in this area."

The key will be zoning changes along the Inman Street corridor, followed by infrastructure upgrades for curb appeal and incentives for businesses, officials said Monday.

Jobe said unifying the area's zoning to mixed-use is a must. That will allow for multiple-story buildings to have commercial ventures on the first floor and residences on the second floor, he said.

Rezoning also would remove setback requirements and allow structures to be closer to the street. The area, which contains 11 structures and the potential for three more under existing zoning, would be allowed to develop up to 50 structures under mixed-use zoning.

Most of the current commercial structures between East and Gaut streets likely would need to be replaced to fit with the new look, which would have "a downtown-type feel," Jobe said.

The Cleveland Planning Commission will begin reviewing the possibility of rezoning the area in February, officials said. However, members did not expect any rezoning to be finalized before early summer.

Community leaders and business owners expressed their desire to be part of the renewal process.

"I just think we need to sit down and talk about what we want it to look like, and not have [it decided] for us," said Alma Dotson of Dotson's Funeral Home.

Dialogue with community leaders will be essential, said 2nd District Councilman Bill Estes, who represents the area. February's planning board meeting will make an ideal place to begin that engagement, he said.

Other integral ingredients for the makeover will be the addition of sidewalks with streetlamps and the transition of the street's center lane into a landscaped divider, Jobe said. Beyond cosmetic appeal, the proposed changes are expected to have a calming effect on traffic, which will be good for safety and customers.

Councilman David May cited the success of Chattanooga partnerships between the public and private sectors as a way to encourage reinvestment in the area. If the area could be turned into a magnet, it would mean more revenue for the city and improve the quality of life of the nearby area, he said.

"The benefits could be enormous," Estes said.

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