Knoxville Wins $42.6M for Urban Connectivity Project

Knoxville receives a historic federal grant to enhance community connections and access.

Knoxville is set to undertake a significant urban development project aimed at revitalizing and reconnecting its communities, thanks to a $42.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This grant, the largest in Knoxville’s recent history, will fund nearly 10 miles of improvements, enhancing connectivity for East Knoxville residents to vital economic, cultural, and recreational amenities.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon highlighted the grant as a pivotal moment for the city, made possible by President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “This grant is a commitment to our disadvantaged communities, offering safe access to essential services and opportunities,” Kincannon stated. The project underscores a significant shift towards equitable urban development, with the funding aimed at areas long deprived of economic growth opportunities.

The initiative will be overseen by the City of Knoxville in partnership with Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC) and will unfold in seven phases. It is designed to mend the urban fabric torn by past infrastructure projects, such as the James White Parkway, that disproportionately affected Black neighborhoods in downtown and East Knoxville. By extending the greenway system to connect key locations like Morningside Park, the Old City, and the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, the project aims to foster a more inclusive and connected city.

KCDC Executive Director and CEO Ben Bentley emphasized the project’s potential to improve the quality of life for residents, particularly in East and South Knoxville. “These improvements will not only enhance access to education and economic mobility but also promote sustainable transportation options,” Bentley noted.

One of the project’s highlights is the creation of a Cultural Corridor, connecting important community sites and featuring historical markers that celebrate Knoxville’s African American heritage. This initiative, which includes cooperation with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, aims to enrich community identity and preserve the memory of the area’s urban renewal impacts.

Vice-Mayor Tommy Smith also underscored the project’s significance in bridging communities, particularly through the new South Knoxville Bridge Connector, which will facilitate safer pedestrian and bike connections.

The ambitious project, set to begin in 2025, is funded partly by the federal grant and complemented by previously allocated funds, promising a transformative impact on Knoxville’s urban landscape and its communities.

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