August 7, 2019 Architecture Students Propose Ideas for East Knoxville’s Burlington

Our college connects our students, faculty and staff with local communities to help design for a better future. During spring 2019, students in Architecture Professor Marleen Davis’ studio proposed ideas for the future of Burlington, a historic neighborhood of East Knoxville. 

students in the Burlington studio at one of the community reviews

Although the Burlington community is reported to sit in a high-crime area of Knoxville, its historic architecture and once-thriving business district create great future potential. Our students’ designs hope to help restore this area to its former character. 

Students in Davis’ studio worked with the East Tennessee Community Design Center, which has been working to restore the Burlington community for three years, the Burlington Area Residents Association, local architects and City of Knoxville officials to fully understand the community’s goals, opportunities and challenges.

During community meetings with Burlington residents, students learned about residents’ goals for their beloved community, such as renovating older buildings, adding lighting and sidewalks for pedestrian traffic and encouraging new business such as restaurants, theaters and other recreational facilities.

student work pinned up for review

Students also learned about an opportunity for Burlington that exists within the rezoning of the city of Knoxville.  The city’s proposed update of its zoning code, called Recode Knoxville, establishes land-use regulations that include dictating where mixed-use commercial and residential development is allowed.

Burlington is included in that potential rezoning, expanding the possibility for revitalization for the community.

Addressing these opportunities, students designed a walkable neighborhood filled with affordable housing, public spaces and various businesses. Specifically, students included ideas for housing units, such as condos, micro-units, veteran housing, lofts and townhouses, along Magnolia Avenue with retail and commercial uses on the ground level. In addition, the students suggested creating a new arena for the Knoxville Ice Bears and a practice rink for local ice skating teams in Chilhowee Park, an area south of Magnolia Avenue.

Prof. Marleen Davis speaking with community members at one of the Burlington studio reviews
“The students’ hypothetical designs are an amazing starting point for Burlington’s future design,” Davis said. “I’m thankful to all professionals, community members and others who met with the students to provide insights and ideas that informed their designs.”

Throughout the design process, the students participated in three separate reviews of their work with many community members, who provided feedback and thoughts. 

The students’ designs provide a glimpse into Burlington’s potential.  While the future design of Burlington is unknown, our students sparked ideas for this reimagined area of Knoxville, where innovation will flourish into realities for the community.