A new, privately funded $150 million science and discovery museum is proposed to be built on Hill Avenue near the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, and a new $40 million combined police and fire headquarters is planned for land on the Knoxville College campus in Mechanicsville, Mayor Madeline Rogero announced today in her State of the City Address.
Speaking at Mary Costa Plaza, next to the Coliseum, Mayor Rogero said the projects are complementary: The science museum, to be funded and endowed by Clayton Homes founder Jim Clayton and his family, will be located on the current site of the City’s Safety Building, which houses the Knoxville Police Department headquarters and City Court. The new police and fire headquarters will in turn take the place of vacant and blighted buildings on the back side of the Knoxville College campus.
“I am so grateful for the amazing generosity of Jim Clayton and the Clayton family,” Mayor Rogero said. “They already have a great legacy of giving in our city and across our region, and this science and discovery museum will provide hands-on learning and exploration for generations to come. I also want to thank the board of Knoxville College for approaching us about the possibility of City investment in their property. This proposal will serve the needs of our Police and Fire departments, as well as Knoxville College and its surrounding neighborhood.”
Under the proposals, the City will vacate the existing Safety Building, which opened in 1969 and can no longer serve modern law enforcement needs. The City will convey that property, on Hill Avenue between Howard Baker Jr. Avenue and the James White Parkway, to the Clayton Foundation.
The City will also work with the Knoxville College board to take control of the back portion of the school’s campus, including several vacant dormitory buildings and the track and athletic field. After demolishing the vacant buildings, the City will construct the new police and fire headquarters on part of the property, and another portion will be available for possible residential or mixed-use redevelopment.
The Knoxville College board will retain control of the campus’ many historic buildings, as they work toward reinstituting an educational program there. Because of lost accreditation, declining enrollment and aging infrastructure, the college ceased offering any classes in 2015.
The Knoxville College plans are contingent on approval of the college’s creditors. And all of the plans will require public review and approval by City Council.
Other highlights from the Mayor’s proposed budget for 2018-19, which she unveiled during the State of the City Address:
- The proposed net budget is $376.9 million, a 6.5 percent increase from 2017-18. There is no proposed tax increase.
- All City of Knoxville employees will receive a 3 percent salary increase.
- $10 million in renovations to the Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, including new seats and lighting in the Auditorium and a new ice floor in the Coliseum.
- $10 million for construction of a gateway entrance to the Urban Wilderness in South Knoxville, at what is currently the dead end of James White Parkway.
- A $2.5 million contribution for the second year of the City’s affordable housing fund, an increase of $500,000 from last year.
- The final of 10 annual contributions of $800,000 to KCDC’s redevelopment of public housing in the Five Points neighborhood of East Knoxville, plus an additional $3.48 million to continue that work.
- $2.95 million for new sidewalks throughout the City, including $750,000 for sidewalks in school-designated parental responsibility zones.
- $2 million for a new gateway park on the west side of Chapman Highway, just across the Henley Bridge.
- $1.62 million in grants to more than 65 arts, community and social service agencies, and $300,000 for public art.
“This is an ambitious and responsible budget that makes important investments throughout our city,” Mayor Rogero said. “It builds on the momentum we are seeing across Knoxville, leveraging private investment and enhancing the quality of life for all of our residents, employers, workers and visitors.”
The budget will be presented for first reading at City Council on Tuesday, May 8, followed by Council budget hearings scheduled for May 17. Council’s second reading of the budget is scheduled for May 22.
For the full text of Mayor Rogero’s State of the City Address and all supporting budget documents, see knoxvilletn.gov/budget.