KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Another step toward the South Knoxville waterfront development has been taken to bring a pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River near Downtown Knoxville, leaders announced on Thursday.

The City of Knoxville shared that in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation, it has acquired 2323 W. Blount Ave., which is the primary parcel needed to construct a proposed pedestrian bridge and continue the city’s progress toward implementing its South Waterfront Vision Plan.

“This strategic acquisition is a critical step in realizing our community’s vision, which has been more than 15 years in the making,” Mayor Indya Kincannon stated in a news release. “Aesthetically, the pedestrian bridge will immediately become an iconic landmark. Functionally, it will provide safe connectivity between South Knoxville and the rest of the city, including downtown, our greenway system, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. And in terms of enrichment and economic investment, it will help the South Waterfront reach its full potential.”

The land acquisition will also lead to the creation of more public open space and increased housing opportunities “at a variety of price points,” according to the city. The project would also connect the campus with an 18-mile downtown greenway system and the 45-mile Urban Wilderness Trail system in South Knoxville.

In fact, the city clarified that part of KCDC’s role as the City of Knoxville’s redevelopment agency is to purchase, hold and prepare properties for future development. Purchasing the West Blount Avenue parcel will allow for the construction of the pedestrian bridge and surrounding mixed-use development.

“The West Blount Avenue acquisition lays the foundation for a walkable South Waterfront for generations to come,” Ben Bentley, KCDC Executive Director and CEO stated. “The pedestrian bridge and implementation of the Vision Plan will benefit South Knoxville residents, UT Knoxville students, faculty and staff, and visitors.”

UT leaders also expressed their enthusiasm toward the land purchase and pedestrian bridge project.

“As someone who grew up in the community of South Knoxville, the pedestrian bridge is more than just a physical structure; it’s a critical investment and symbolic link between communities and opportunities,” Randy Boyd, UT System President, stated. “Because our flagship campus is in need of more housing and our employees are in need of more options, the pedestrian bridge will be enormously helpful to UT Knoxville and in revitalizing the South Knoxville community.”

The bridge project has been discussed among leaders for more than 20 years and in recent years gained momentum among city and university leaders.

Now with more money involved, more moves have been made and a master plan for the bridge landing points is in the works.

The city said on Thursday that with the State of Tennessee’s recent contribution of $20 million toward planning, design and construction of the pedestrian bridge, momentum for the project continues to build; plus, the project team is working to finalize the bridge design and cost estimate, which is expected to be incorporated into the 2024 federal RAISE grant application.

Knoxville unsuccessfully applied for a $25 million RAISE grant for 2023. Kincannon said in June that project leaders remain confident that other funding opportunities will be found.

Beginning in early 2024, public engagement and stakeholder input will guide the development of a master plan for the bridge landing points that align with the South Waterfront Vision Plan.