Following hot on the heels of the Tennessee Department of Transportation's release of its plan for a new Fourth Street interchange, a group of urban designers on Thursday unveiled their own vision for the historic corridor.
The $60 million proposal for the Fourth Street corridor includes a pedestrian walkway from downtown to Cameron Hill as its centerpiece, a tree-lined promenade and new public spaces.
The presentation was the fourth of six entries in the Urban Design Challenge, a program sponsored by nonprofit developer River City Co.
Currently serving as what consultant Bob McNutt calls a "three-block de-acceleration lane for U.S. 27," the new vision for Fourth Street turns the focus from Hummer to human.
A $10 million walking bridge would connect the city to a planned multifamily residential development on the eastern slope of Cameron Hill, and would in turn allow nearly 5,000 employees at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee headquarters a 15-minute stroll to downtown, according to the plan.
The group of architects, planners and designers was highly critical of what they see as vehicular wasteland, which for many tourists is a first impression of the Scenic City.
"There are no human beings here outside of the ones driving vehicles," architect Eric Myers said during a presentation in the Majestic 12 movie theater that was as much history lesson as planning discussion. "The on-ramps must move back."
The area currently occupied by the expressway was actually a bustling neighborhood as recently as the 1950s, but was bulldozed to make way for the current cloverleaf interchange.
Myers' design also calls for new parking and a $15 million expansion to the Creative Discovery Museum, which would include a planetarium, as well as a welcome sign integrated into TDOT's planned retaining walls along U.S. 27.
"A community with its own font should have the ability to display a gateway sign," he said.
Half-used lots bordering the Majestic 12, John Ross building and Applebees would undergo a transformation into taller mixed-use buildings -- what Myers called the "highest and best use" for such a high-traffic area.
The River City Co. is already sending out a request for proposals on its L-shaped property on 4th Street, which wraps around the Majestic 12, said Kim White, president of the organization.