KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Some residents in the South Waterfront neighborhood of Knoxville are concerned that a potential pedestrian bridge may bring an unwanted student population.
The City of Knoxville is working with the University of Tennessee on plans to build a pedestrian bridge connecting the UT campus to South Knoxville. At a city council meeting Tuesday, the members voted 7-2 to allow the mayor to apply for a federal grant to fund the bridge.
If awarded, the RAISE grant would award $25 million to be put towards the bridge. The City of Knoxville and UT would then contribute $6.25 million towards the project. The two are working on a shared cost agreement.
Residents of the South Waterfront neighborhood like John Cadotte, are concerned that UT will develop student housing in South Knoxville if the bridge is built.
“It disproportionately benefits UT rather than the neighborhood, and it really only makes sense if this area becomes student housing, and none of us really want that to happen,” Cadotte said.
Cadotte lives on Scottish Pike, and is part of the Neighborhood Advisory Council.
“UT has a problem with enrollment and people are talking about UT kind of butting up against its borders and it can’t expand,” Cadotte said. “I think that’s a self-made problem by UT, and I feel like the community shouldn’t be the one who has to suffer for that.”
During the meeting Tuesday, Mayor Indya Kincannon said the idea for the bridge was originally formed in a vision plan created for the neighborhood in 2006.
“The bridge concept was an ambitious part of that plan that was led by city residents. From the beginning, it was clear that it was going to be expensive, so it could only happen as part of a collaborative effort,” Kincannon said. “So now in 2023, we are lucky that key partners including the University of Tennessee and TDOT, and maybe with this grant the federal government, could help bring this vision to life.”
Martha Olson is also a resident of the South Waterfront Neighborhood and was on the committee that helped create the vision plan in 2006. Although the bridge was included in the plan, Olson feels that it may lead to too much development in the neighborhood.
“It was a very long, involved process that had a lot of input from the city and the citizens, and the neighborhoods both locally and around the city. I have to say, there was not one mention of turning our neighborhood into a suburb of UT,” Olson said.
Olson and Cadotte both think the neighborhood should remain a place for residents of all ages.
“I lived in the Fort Sanders neighborhood when I was a student and it was a lot of fun, but I was a student and it was a completely different time in my life, and I don’t want to live in that type of environment as an adult,” Cadotte said.
The development for the pedestrian bridge is still in the early stages.