2018 Honor Award
City of Knoxville
In the early 1980’s, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) halted construction of James White Parkway, which exists today as a seldom-used controlled access four-lane highway segment extending 2-miles south from downtown Knoxville where it terminates in a dead-end in South Knoxville. In and around property acquired for the highway’s completion, over the last two decades a series of outdoor recreation destinations began to develop which together has evolved to become Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, one of the most popular and dynamic outdoor recreation destinations in the United States. In 2017, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero announced an agreement with the TDOT which would transfer the terminus of the James White Parkway to the City, ending the potential completion of this roadway which would cut through the heart of the Urban Wilderness. With the acquisition of this property, the City envisioned this “Highway to Nowhere” becoming the Gateway into this resource so many had worked so hard to protect.
in 2018 the City issued a Request for Qualifications for the design of a new park located on this newly acquired parcel. The City had also begun conversations with TDOT regarding the use of the remaining 2 mile stretch of the rarely used James White Parkway. Once selected, the design team proposed extending the scope of the project to extend the full length of the highway corridor including the bridge across the Tennessee River with a a goal of expanding neighborhood connectivity while helping to tie developing Urban Wilderness amenities and resources to Knoxville’s downtown and inner city neighborhoods. With support from the City and surrounding neighborhoods, the framework was expanded and the vision for the project has become much more than just an access point into the hiking and biking trails of the Urban Wilderness.
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, the City of Knoxville and Urban Wilderness Project Team hosted a public exhibition and block party at the James White Parkway Terminus to share project ideas and gather input from the community. Visitors were invited to learn about the project through visual displays including diagrams, drawings, aerial photographs, and a 50′ long matchbox car-scale plan of the project. Most importantly, party-goers had the opportunity (for the first-time ever!) to experience the James White Parkway terminus as pedestrians and imagine the space as a park for people, rather than as a dead end.