Cleveland looks at improvements for Inman Street downtown

Cleveland looks at improvements for Inman Street downtown

December 25th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Traffic moves on Inman Street in Cleveland, Tenn., on Tuesday. A new study shows how rezoning, adding parking spaces, landscaping and removal of a turn lane could encourage new business in the area, and create the "gateway" entrance the city has desired for a few years.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- A new city study suggests changes to give the east end of Inman Street a new look and make it a gateway into the downtown area.

For years the Inman Street section between the railroad overpass at Five Points to East Street at the city limits has been marked mostly by vacant buildings and empty spaces.

There are exceptions. Some businesses, churches and a city park border the street. But the study concentrates on how to encourage property owners to fill the empty spaces with commercial enterprises and make the area a gateway to downtown.

"Redevelopment would give us a good corridor into town," Jonathan Jobe, the city's director of development and engineering services, told the Cleveland City Council at a recent planning retreat.

Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll said Monday the city began rethinking that Inman Street section because of safety and drainage issues.

"That is a state route. So anything the council decides upon will have to get approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation as well," Carroll said.

The draft study report indicates changing the zoning would reduce the required setback for buildings and encourage more commercial development. The city might add landscaping, curbside parking, sidewalks and other amenities.

Subject to TDOT approval, a shared turn lane could be removed to allow the parking spaces.

"The general planning concept as we understand it would be to work within the existing available infrastructure as much as possible; create opportunities for infill development; move buildings toward the street to create a more pedestrian scale; facilitate more neighborhood-oriented business activity and improve the streetscape," planning director Greg Thomas said in the memo, based on a study by planner Paul Corder.

The thinking is to create a central business district, Jobe told council members.

"That would reduce the setback requirements and allow property owners to do more," he said. "We know crime increases with abandoned buildings, too."

The study has not been developed enough to put a price tag on the work, city officials said.

That would leave the railroad overpass itself as a remaining challenge. Trucks and recreational vehicles occasionally get stuck there because of the low clearance. City officials have discussed several options, including dangling warning markers or just repainting with bright colors.

The underpass needs something that gets drivers' attention, city officials agreed.