From volunteer to director, Kim Trent helps Knox Heritage saves pieces of Knoxville's history
"We started working with folks at the national level and seeing studies and examples that, no, preservation is actually a great form of economic development that you can incorporate into things you do in the future," Kim Trent said.
Trent and Knox Heritage were instrumental in saving this historic West Knoxville home.
Trent cites the popularity of Market Square as an example of how historic buildings can help economically.
Trent and Knox Heritage saved this home from demolition when work was done on I-40.
KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Next year, Knox Heritage celebrates forty years in Knoxville.
Over the decades, the organization has, either directly through purchases and rehabs or indirectly through advocacy, saved hundreds of historic buildings from demolition.
And since 1994, Kim Trent has been one of the driving forces of the movement to preserve Knoxville's architectural history.
Kim Trent first joined Knox Heritage as a volunteer and board member in 1994. At the time, all the work done was done by volunteers.
The city's record of supporting historic buildings was poor at best.
"It was sort of an ingrained thing that preservation was anti-progress and anti-economic development," Trent said.
But Trent, who became Knox Heritage's executive director in 2002, also realized she was on the cutting edge of change and that attitudes could be shifted with education and facts.
"We started working with folks at the national level and seeing studies and examples that, no, preservation is actually a great form of economic development that you can incorporate into things you do in the future," she said.
And as that shift in attitude moved toward preservation, so did the face of development in Knoxville. Old buildings were seen suddenly as a positive.
Market Square is a prime example of how everything old can be new again.
"That's why you go out on Market Square on a Tuesday night and there will be hundreds of people stand around talking, eating, just enjoying being in that space, surrounded by historic buildings," Trent said.
Market Square is a well-publicized success story of preservation, but Trent and her team also work dozens of smaller deals involving individual homes in areas like the 4th and Gill neighborhood.
One house was blocking a portion of the reconfigured interstate, but instead of demolishing it, Knox Heritage was able to realign it and save the structure.
Hundreds of properties, all with unique histories, have been saved by Knox Heritage. But as Trent will tell you, there is still much work to do. The good news is Knoxville is now listening.
"I think we grew up together. The town has really blossomed. There's been a whole renaissance that's happened in the last few years, so I'm thinking I was lucky to have been here to help with it," Trent said.
And lucky for us, Kim Trent is very much a part of the Spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at email@example.com.