Making a Difference in Knoxville, Tennessee

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“The CRE Consulting Corps team brought together planning with local input, market opportunities, and inspiration from elsewhere to offer specific, actionable recommendations. I’m excited. I think the report will spur some good conversations and opportunities.
Hancen Sale, Government Affairs and Policy Director, East Tennessee REALTORS®


Clients: The East Tennessee REALTORS® serves more than 6,000 REALTOR® members. The City of Knoxville is Tennessee’s third largest city with a population of approximately 193,000 people. Through Transforming Neighborhoods, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) partnered with The Counselors of Real Estate® Consulting Corps and issued a call for proposals for strategic real estate problem solving. The project submitted by the East Tennessee REALTORS® in conjunction with the City of Knoxville was selected.

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Challenge: As in many cities, most waterfront property was originally dominated by industrial uses. Knoxville conducted a public planning process and adopted a Vision Plan in 2006. However, despite measurable progress since 2006, many key areas along the waterfront have yet to reach their full potential, even as the area has continued to become more populated. The City of Knoxville and East Tennessee REALTORS® requested the CRE Consulting Corps bring its unbiased, objective perspective to offer guidance to spur additional development along the downtown South Waterfront and create a walkable, amenity-rich area.  

Assessment and Findings: In April 2023 the Consulting Corps team visited Knoxville, toured the downtown South Waterfont, examined demographic and economic data, reviewed prior plans, and interviewed more than 30 stakeholders including elected and appointed officials, University leadership, community representatives, developers, business leaders, representatives of the REALTORS® and many other stakeholders. The team observed that the South Waterfront zoning code, development incentives, and market forces seem effective at delivering large multifamily developments along or very near the waterfront, but so far not much else has been developed of note. 

Recommendations: To increase access to the river and enhance the South Waterfront as a destination, the team identified four sites and provided proactive steps to move toward redevelopment in a way that meets local priorities, improves public quality of life, and promotes economic development. 

The four sites are: 

  1. West of the Henley Street Bridge 
  2. Sevier Avenue 
  3. East of the Gay Street Bridge 
  4. The River 

Overall, the team encourages local leaders to create a riverfront that is an award-winning example for the nation that binds and connects people to the river, to Knoxville, and to the adjoining nature preserves and parks. By focusing on the South Waterfront, proactively engaging partners, experimenting with programming and activities, and leveraging resources, the City can optimize the opportunity to redevelop the South Waterfront to maximum public benefit. 

Listen to an Overview of the Project From the Client:

“Excellent work! It was an honor to serve and be inspired by our wonderful team and the City of Knoxville. We made new friends and saw incredible potential. I’m happy to offer any help as the city moves forward.”
– Malcolm Bryant, CRE, Knoxville Team

L to R: Jim Patton, CRE, Malcolm Bryant, CRE, Maribel Koella, CRE, Zelleka Biermann, CRE, R.J. Neary, CRE, Casey Pipes, CRE
L to R: Jim Patton, CRE, Malcolm Bryant, CRE, Maribel Koella, CRE, Zelleka Biermann, CRE, R.J. Neary, CRE, Casey Pipes, CRE

Team: The team was led by Casey Pipes, CRE, Mobile, AL. Panelists were Zelleka Biermann, CRE, Charlotte, NC; Malcolm Bryant, CRE, Owensboro, KY; R.J. Neary, CRE, Omaha, NE; and James Patton, CRE, Stratham, NH. Thanks also to Maribel Koella, CRE, who welcomed the team to Knoxville. 

In the News:

Does your community, university, or nonprofit need help with a real estate challenge? For more information or to refer a project to the CRE Consulting Corps, please contact Samantha DeKoven (312-329-8431;