By Mike Steely

The City of Knoxville is finalizing steps to create 53 affordable housing units for low-income senior citizens. Tuesday’s council meeting saw a series of actions toward that project beginning with the closure of a series of alleys.

Those authorizations to close the alleys led to the transfer of the property located at Clifton Road, Sanderson Road and Chillicothe to Knoxville’s Housing Development Corporation at no charge.

The three-steps ended with the city council authorizing the award of $1.2 million in Affordable Rental Development Funds to the Housing Development Corporation at the request of the Development Corporation.

The senior dwelling project will cost almost $6 million with additional funding coming from state and federal sources. Senior residents who qualify as low-income recipients would pay 30% of their gross income and some would qualify for rent vouchers.

Planned for the area south of Western Avenue and east of I-640 in West Lonsdale, the project is “a no brainer” according to Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation Director Ben Bentley. He added that thousands of senior citizens are on a waiting list for affordable housing.

The council also authorized spending $500,000 for an art project for the little park at Summit Hill Road and South Gay Street. Requested by the office of redevelopment, the huge sculpture was selected from various submissions.

Liza Zenni, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, told the council that THEVERYMANY, LLC submission was selected because it will create a gathering place and is designed to “draw people in.” She said the art sculpture will have places to sit, places for musicians to play and will transform the little are that has been called the “Country Music Park.”

Councilman George Wallace asked if city engineers would approve of the structural integrity of the large sculpture and Chief Operating Officer David Brace said, “We’re prepared to do that.”

“We’ll make sure it is safe,” Brace said.

Zenni called the small park one of Knoxville’s “forgotten places” and Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie said the design is beautiful and then encouraged the arts group to look at doing something in the Danny Mayfield Park in Mechanicsville.

Council member Seema Singh-Perez differed with the other members and noted that the proposed large art structure is only three blocks from the homeless on Broadway.

“It feels like an insult,” she said, adding that there are other things that the funds could be used for.  Zenni replied that the sculpture “has no doors” and the homeless will be welcomed there.

Singh-Perez was the sole “No” vote on the project.

Mayor Madeline Rogero said she was very impressed by the artist and choice the committee made. She called the art sculpture an “iconic artistic piece” that links the Old City with downtown.

In other action the council approved of allowing a proposed hotel on Executive Park Drive to exceed the height limit there and extend to 70 feet.  Developer Paul Williams said the topography of the one-acre site was a feature that required the extra height and lowered his request from 81 feet to 70 feet.

Councilman Andrew Roberto quizzed Williams about the project but Councilman George Wallace sited the location’s topography as a hardship. The matter passed with Roberto voting “No.”

Pond Gap residents lost their appeal of approval of a large apartment complex being planned along Hollywood Road. Neighborhood President David Williams and resident Roberta Potter spoke for the homeowners there and asked the council to repeal the approval of the Metropolitan Planning Committee’s Use on Review.

The speakers described the additional traffic, safety issues and and the problems fire and emergency vehicles would have entering and exiting a proposed road there.

Developer John Sheppard assured the neighbors that the turn into the proposed complex might actually slow speeders on Hollywood. MPC Director Gerald Green told the council that a traffic study along the route indicated that a turn lane was not needed but Councilman Roberto said there’s lots of concern about traffic and safety.

There was also a concern about a retaining wall along the street and Brace promised to look into it. The vote to deny Pond Gap’s appeal was unanimous.