The new Market Square.
That's what city of Knoxville officials believe the Strip can develop into amid the upcoming Cumberland Project.
UT students, Baker Center representatives and community leaders came together Saturday morning to discuss the Cumberland Avenue redesign.
"The goal of this event was to give some good suggestions and put a student spin on what we'd like to see from the Cumberland Project," Robbie Leonard, a Baker Ambassador and junior in political science, said.
Held in the Baker Center, Equip the Strip allowed participants to learn the details of the Cumberland Project through presentations, including one by Bill Lyons, chief policy officer and deputy mayor for the City of Knoxville.
Lyons outlined the several major changes to parking, traffic and other aspects that will be part of the Strip redesign.
The redesign will institute 8-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of Cumberland Avenue between the 21st and 22nd blocks, 3-foot-wide "furnishing zones" for street-blocking trees and vegetation, two 12-foot-wide traffic lanes and a 3-foot-wide median between the two lanes.
"Overall, they are focusing on a redesign that will make the Strip more pedestrian friendly," Abigail McKamey, a student assistant at the Baker Center said. "I think it will create a cohesiveness that appeals not only to students but also to merchants who are promoting their businesses. And maybe elevating that standard will also elevate the level of safety on the Strip."
Students who attended the discussion have high hopes for the redesign's outcomes.
"I think the way they're going about the redesign is going to improve the amount of revenue that businesses are taking in because the overall project is going to improve the aesthetics as well as the accessibility of the Strip," Thomas Carpenter, a sophomore in classics and another Baker Ambassador, said.
At Saturday's event, 50 students were divided into five groups representing major concerns regarding the Strip: safety, student trends, parking, convenience and alternative transportation.
Some students then walked along the Strip interviewing business owners about their concerns. Others remained in the Baker Center to research issues with the redesign and develop solutions.
"I think people assume that there's nothing we can do to make the Strip better, but this event allowed students to actually give some input and fix things," said Diana Howell, freshman in political science.
Although data collection is still being conducted by the Baker Center, current survey information reflects that 57 percent of the 940 students who responded to the survey (complete the survey here) intentionally avoid the Strip when possible. The redesign will serve to change this statistic by creating a more welcoming environment.
"The Cumberland Avenue Strip is the front door to the university, to downtown and the core of Knoxville," Lyons said. "There's tremendous capacity for investment here."
For information on studies conducted on the Cumberland Avenue Strip, click here.