Downtown Development Update
Thursday, June 29, 2017
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
“There are five priority projects we hope to realize in the next five years,” said Frank Gladu, Special Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor, providing an overview of changes Sewanee residents can expect as the University pursues implementing the Sewanee Village Plan.
The 2011 University Master Plan included revisioning the downtown area, and two years ago, the University retained town planner Brian Wright to create a road map for that vision.
The five projects on the front burner are the Highway 41A intersection, a grocery-type market, housing, relocating the University bookstore to downtown and a village green.
Construction to narrow Highway 41A will begin in early 2018, according to Gladu. “Narrowing the highway will calm traffic and make crossing less intimidating,” Gladu said. To further foster user friendliness, the intersection plan approved by the Tennessee Department for Transportation calls for street lights, sidewalks and a pedestrian activated crosswalk.
Redesigning the intersection is key since realization of the other four priorities will give residents increasing occasion to cross to the non-campus side of the highway.
In the Hair Depot’s current location, plans call for a grocery store type market four to five times the size of the local convenience market. The grocery will offer fresh produce, meats, dairy products and foods to prepare meals with, rather than just ready-to-eat foods.
Not far from the grocery, in a wooded area adjacent to Prince Lane (cattycorner to the Community Center), the design projects cottage court type housing with as many as 42 living spaces.
The plan also envisions nine single- family residences, multi-family homes with as many as 25 living spaces, and apartments on the upper level of all commercial buildings on both sides of the highway.
“The variety of residence types will make housing in Sewanee more affordable,” Gladu said. “We don’t really have that now. The cost of large homes creates a market that’s very challenging for someone starting out.”
“The residence variety called for in the plan is also making Sewanee attractive to developers,” he pointed out.
“We’re close to reaching an agreement with several developers, both in residential and commercial components of the plan,” Gladu said. He cited the grocery, bookstore and Southern Tennessee Regional Health Systems (STRHS) interest in locating a clinic in downtown Sewanee.
One scenario under consideration by STRHS is a clinic with rotating specialties.
Gladu wants to see relocating the bookstore to downtown “on a faster track.” The bookstore will continue to offer student course materials. “We’re evaluating sites,” Gladu said. “Once we decide on a site, it will take another couple months to design the structure, and probably a year for construction.”
Plans call for the village green to be located on the present Sewanee Market lot. “We envision the green as a place for people to gather, a site for festivals and perhaps a location for the Sewanee Gardeners’ Market,” Gladu explained, noting that parking on the bordering streets was a possibility.
Gladu assumed the role of Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor in January allowing him to focus full time on the senior living project Arcadia and downtown development. His office in the Lease Office “Blue House” at 400 University Avenue makes him easily accessible to residents who have questions about the Village Plan. You can also reach him at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Downtown Development project will host an open house from noon to 2 p.m., Tuesday, July 4, at the Lease Office.
Needs such as affordable housing and a grocery have been on Sewanee’s wish list for a long time, Gladu insisted, but “if we’d allowed the real estate market to do what it wanted to do when it wanted to do it, the result would be a hodgepodge.” He sees the Village Plan as a way for these dreams to be realized while preserving the character of the Sewanee village longtime residents love.
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