CLEVELAND, Tenn. — City leaders and community stakeholders have been given a glimpse of several possible green futures for renewing 850 acres of industrial property in downtown Cleveland.
In a recent presentation at the Museum Center at Five Points, eight students of the University of Tennessee's landscape architecture program discussed scenarios intended to inspire new growth and reconnect the Blythe/Oldfield neighborhood to downtown.
Scenarios focused on ideas that increase mobility, inspire urban agriculture, promote education or regenerate industrial usage "gently woven" into the Blythe/Oldfield neighborhood.
"It's a great thing to see this kind of imagination for renewing the area," said Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
The targeted area is dominated by sites operated by Whirlpool that straddle the Norfolk Southern rail lines east of Inman Street. In recent years, the appliance manufacturer has been transitioning its operations to the Durkee Road area, away from the city center.
The eastern anchor of the area is the Old Woolen Mill, which has undergone some repurposing in the last decade, offering apartment, retail and art studio spaces.
The student presentations were intended to give planners and stakeholders a chance to better envision the challenges, assets and opportunities inherent with redefining an area that no longer maintains its traditional industrial usage, said Brad Collett, assistant professor of the landscape architecture program.
Collett said redefining the old industrial landscape also gives Cleveland a chance to remove a barrier between its downtown and the Blythe/Oldfield neighborhood and improve the quality of life of its residents.
And there is no question that Blythe/Oldfield is underserved and disconnected on a number of levels, students said.
The neighborhood falls within a "food desert," with no nearby groceries, said Rebecca Rainey, a student presenter.
Access to higher education is a key factor of student Taylor Dotson's concept of a "community campus," which envisions the development of a space dedicated to living, working, playing and learning.
Green spaces are definitely a big piece of the proposals, with students citing inspiration from similar projects that repurposed sites of urban decay from as close as Chattanooga to as far away as Seattle.
"What strikes me most is the impressive integration of green spaces in all these scenarios," said Shawn McKay, financial director for Cleveland.
The student proposals were created in collaboration with city planners, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce and Impact Cleveland as part of UT-Knoxville's Smart Communities Initiative, Collett said.
Cleveland is the first partner of the Smart Communities Initiative, a service learning program that will set hundreds of students to work on civic projects for the city over the 2014-15 academic year, university officials said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.