Students map possible futures for Cleveland's Old Woolen Mill

Students map possible futures for Cleveland's Old Woolen Mill

May 5th, 2015 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

University of Tennessee at Knoxville architecture undergraduates Michael Turko, right, and Paige Jessop display their plans for the old Hardwick Woolen Mill Monday as the Smart Communities Initiative program comes to a close. The fifth-year Bachelor of Architecture majors will graduate next week, according to UTK professor Tricia Stuth.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee architectural students have unveiled multiple possible futures for the Old Woolen Mill, a Cleveland landmark industrial site that dates back to the 1890s.

Proposed makeovers include a newer and larger event center, a small bed & breakfast, an art center and a multilevel restaurant with a microbrewery.

On Monday, the students discussed their plans with community stakeholders and public officials.

The proposals call for reusing elements of the existing structures and integrating them in such a way that the new uses evoke the building's historical origins, said Dr. Ron Coleman, who purchased the property about 15 years ago.

In the last decade, portions of the mill have been repurposed as apartments, artistic studios and an event space.

However, the overriding factor in all this "is the idea of public/private cooperation and the idea of trying to get the community involved in it," Coleman said.

It is not simply a matter of redevelopment and reimagining the site's potential, but a matter of learning "what stewardship means," said Tricia Stuth, associate professor of architecture at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Cleveland's Old Woolen Mill

Cleveland's Old Woolen Mill

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The proposals for the Old Woolen Mill mark the last service-learning project associated with the inaugural launch of UTK's Smart Communities Initiative, which partnered Cleveland with students employing the disciplines of landscape architecture, graphic design, interior design and civil engineering throughout the 2014-15 academic year.

Stuth said the comprehensive revitalization for the Old Woolen Mill was not conceived as an isolated project, but one that speaks to the revitalization of Cleveland's historical downtown as a whole.

Bringing new life to the old mill property is intended to be an energizing catalyst, she said.

"We really tried to take advantage of our partnerships and think about this place through a much broader lens, but also getting down to the bolts, in some cases, as well," Stuth said.

In that broader context, student presentations envisioned the Old Woolen Mill as serving as a new anchor along the Church Street corridor, which connects with Lee University several blocks to the north.

Plans called for providing pedestrian-friendly access from the east using a proposed greenway that would parallel the course of a Mouse Creek branch that passes through the property.

"It's sort of a premier property within our whole larger downtown development area," said Greg Thomas, senior planner for Cleveland. "I think it's got the potential to be a real centerpiece. He [Coleman] has done a great labor of love with this building, and we think it will serve the community well for many years."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at