Market Square - Knoxville

Market Street between Union Avenue and Wall Avenue
Knoxville, TN

Submitted by: Arthur Carmichael

A historic pedestrian square in downtown Knoxville.

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Why It Works

It is a plaza-style, pedestrian-only city block flanked by late 19th-early 20th century storefronts. Historically, it has served as downtown Knoxville's market and meeting place.

What Makes Market Square - Knoxville a Great Place?

The Square connects well with the rest of downtown Knoxville. The space is not only accessible by public transportation (the trolley line is one block to the west and south, and the suburban bus line one block to the west and east), but also easily reached by automobile or on foot. Although the Square is located one block off of the main drag, it is known well enough locally to make up for that seclusion.

The Square makes a decent first impression, although we hope that is about to improve. The seating scenario is still undecided: Some of us are pushing for seating and tables in the central part of the square for use by local restaurants, thus moving pedestrian traffic closer to the storefronts, which will, with hope, generate more business for the retail establishments. (Currently, restaurants are offering seating directly outside of their spaces, which pushes pedestrian traffic away from the storefronts.) The Square is cleaned and maintained nightly except for Sunday.

Though crime is almost non-existent in downtown Knoxville, the city does have an unsafe feeling to it due to the lack of pedestrian traffic at night and on weekends. This is rapidly changing, now that the city has gotten off its rear and begun offering incentives (as opposed to its inexplicable disincentives of years' past) for opening businesses and residential space downtown. There is little security presence, other than during events, though the Knoxville Police Department has mentioned security will be heightened when the space becomes more populated.

The space is primarily filled with bars and restaurants, but retail and residential tenants are starting to move in. The Square is used for various events throughout the year, most notable the Sundown in the City concert series (every Thursday night, April-October); the Second Saturday Market (second Saturday of every month); the Dogwood Arts Festival; and various holiday festivals. The space is utilized by people of all sorts for all kinds of reasons (a place to read, meet, eat, people watch, celebrate, etc.). The buildings are currently the least-used space but that is rapidly changing; the Square is fairly busy on weekdays, and is getting busier on nights and weekends.

I often meet my friends at the Square, but I live less than a block away, so I'm probably a poor gauge. I would say the space is underused presently as a meeting place, but that will probably change as more residents move into downtown Knoxville and more businesses open up in the buildings flanking the Square. This will hopefully become THE place residents bring visitors.

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