‘Cleveland: Exploring Our Future’ on exhibit; also viewed by Rotary

By JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Posted 7/29/15

“Cleveland: Exploring Our Future” opened with a successful sneak peak on Monday when about 50 people attended an invite-only look at the exhibit. The momentum continued Tuesday as the Rotary Club …

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‘Cleveland: Exploring Our Future’ on exhibit; also viewed by Rotary

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“Cleveland: Exploring Our Future” opened with a successful sneak peak on Monday when about 50 people attended an invite-only look at the exhibit. The momentum continued Tuesday as the Rotary Club of Cleveland heard the background behind the displays and offered comments during its weekly meeting. The exhibit highlights five of the design projects completed by University of Tennessee students as a part of the Smart Communities Initiative. The designs include refurbishing the Old Woolen Mill, adding an Old Woolen Mill Greenway, the city’s marketing brand, re-establishing the Cherokee Hotel and redevelopment of the old Whirlpool plant and surrounding areas.The exhibit is open to the public at The Museum Center at Five Points, free of charge, for the rest of this week.

Several Rotarians were excited about the prospects of redeveloping abandoned industrial sites.

Sherronda Thompson of the Family Resource Agency said her favorite project was Old Woolen Mill redevelopment design. “I just think that that would be a great place … that would draw families, especially with the restaurant, a nice hotel. I thought it would add a little pizazz to the town,” Thompson said.

The Cherokee hotel was also a favorite design. Janet Ingram, visiting Rotary with Thompson, said she would like to see the Cherokee Hotel restored. She said she was also glad to see the designs using existing buildings.

“I like the project about the hotel. I like that concept, but it is important that it blend well with the history of the community,” said Bill Seymour, Cleveland State Community College president.

Others agreed, commenting in the space provided that they felt the facade design was too modern and the exterior of the building should be left intact. Looking at the Cherokee Hotel project reminded businessman Jonathan Cantrell of the history of Cleveland.

“When people talk about old-time Cleveland, even back to my grandfather, it was central, downtown was the nicest part, everybody went there and hung out in coffee shops and stuff,” Cantrell said. He said he felt an establishment like a nice hotel downtown was something the city needed. Exhibit visitors also had advice for moving forward.

“To me, one of the things I like about Cleveland and one of the reasons why I came here was that sense of community and that sense of closeness that exists. So, anything that builds greater connections with people so they can interact and participate in the community (is good), and I think some of these ideas certainly do that, so for me its all about perpetuating that idea of community and family,” Seymour said. Cantrell commented the city should focus on one project at a time. He said it was “great to see the attempt” to revitalize areas near downtown.

Funding for the projects was seen as a potential hurdle, but the group showed interest in exploring the designs. Denise King of Cleveland State said plans to redevelop inactive industrial sites would require a lot of partnership moving forward.

“It is a great opportunity to create some things in our community,” King said.

Groups huddled around the displays as friends discussed the design plans.

“To me, the most important thing is that you start visioning a different future for the community and if you are not reaching for it and you are not looking for it and being proactive, it is difficult to get the future that you like,” Seymour said. Thompson said he is glad the city was getting community input, commenting this would be important in moving forward with any of the projects.

The Smart Communities Initiative was created to provide students design and planning experience in a real world setting while providing useful plans to the chosen city.

Kelly Ellenburg, UTK campus coordinator for service-learning, said the program also provided students the opportunity to work with other departments and sharpen problem-solving skills.

“We have been really pleased with SCI here in Cleveland,” Ellenburg said. Cleveland planning director Greg Thomas estimated that students completed 40,000 hours of work during the yearlong partnership. “This is the kind of learning they could never get from a textbook,” Ellenburg said.

She said the Cleveland partners “modeled good leadership” for the students. “It has been wonderful for our students to see the way the leaders and the stakeholders really manage together for the co-creation of different opportunities for the area,” Ellenburg said.

Thomas said change comes faster than ever before in advancements in technology and other areas.

“How then can we keep the place we call home a place that continues to serve its citizens well, preserving what is good and continuing to bring about change where needed? That is the task of good planning,” Thomas said. “And I invite you to it as you tour our exhibit.”

The exhibit began in the same location where the SCI partnership was announced nearly a year ago. Plans are being made to showcase the exhibit at other public locations.

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