Mayor Madeline Rogero on a revitalized Knoxville, TN

Knoxville, Tennessee is refocusing development toward the city’s historic core and older neighborhoods, and the strategy is driving an economic turnaround for the city.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, a member of the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, says the city has focused on “strong, safe neighborhoods; living green and working green; an energized downtown and job creation and retention” during her time in office. The approach is bringing new businesses and residents to downtown Knoxville.

“Whereas 10 years ago all the activity was out in the suburbs now all the activity is right downtown.”

Rogero credits the partnerships between the public sector and private developers as a key to the city’s redevelopment efforts. “We put in the minimum amount of public investment needed to maximize private sector investment,” says Rogero, explaining that private developers have played a vital role in restoring and repurposing some of downtown Knoxville’s historic buildings.

Some of these successful projects include The Holtson, Sterchi Lofts and the JFG Building. And just last month, ground broke in preparation for the building of University Commons, Knoxville’s first urban, vertical retail complex, built the site of a former factory. Downtown North is another neighborhood undergoing a revival in Knoxville. Momentum is growing to create an integrated mixed-use area that will capitalize on the revitalization of neighboring downtown, which has recently begun to take hold. Projects like street narrowing, improved sidewalks and green spaces are attracting new businesses, new development, and new residents to the area.

“Smart growth is all about reinvesting where investment has occurred in the past,” says Rogero. “Rather than going out to greenfields or properties like that, come back in where you already have your sewers, your roads, you have your sidewalks…go back in to where we’ve already put a lot of time and energy and resources in the past and repurpose that, rebuild that.”

Rogero is a member of the Advisory Board of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, a nonpartisan group of municipal officials who share a passion for building great towns, cities and communities. Representing diverse communities of all sizes from across the United States, members of the Local Leaders Council are using smart growth strategies to help their hometowns compete and grow in today’s economy, generate better return on taxpayer investment, provide transportation and housing choices for their residents, and create vibrant places where people want to live, work, and play.

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