Apr 27 2012

Many thanks to the City of Alcoa for their peoples' time and their facilities to present information on the proposed Alcoa West Plant redevelopment. A two hour meeting was held on March 15. After input from local residents, the city provided an open house on April 24 and 25 for a total of 20 additional hours enabling more residents to learn about the project. In addition, we would like to thank the city for not hindering the efforts of residents to spend the entire two days at the City Service Center so these residents could add a concerned citizen point of view to the open house discussion.

After spending four hours at the second day of the City of Alcoa open house to answer questions on the new Alcoa Aluminum West Plant development project, the one thing that rang true was that nothing is definite, except for a road being planned around one side of the perimeter and the interest of one retailer. It is being projected that a traditional retail center (think strip mall) will be along this new roadway. Sometime in the future (think 10-20 years) there is hope for a New Urbanist development in the center of the site with some sort of housing (townhomes, condos, single-family residential) along the Springbrook community side.

The Alcoa West Plant site is approximatley 300 acres, about the size of the Turkey Creek commercial development in West Knoxville.

City presenters gave background on the project developer, Kinsey Probasco Hayes, Chattanooga, TN, as the developer who re-did Chattanooga and made it great. Keep in mind the Chattanooga project is nothing like the Alcoa West Plant project. There are very few single-family home residences (not townhomes/condos) near the Chattanooga Riverfront redevelopment, definitly nothing like the Springbrook community. In addition, it was suggested to visit the KPH website to see projects they have developed. I was surprised to find there were no projects on the scale of the Alcoa West Plant development and nothing really of a New Urbanist development except for rehabbing existing facilities.

Surprisingly, city representatives kept indicating they were not familiar with the Northshore Town Center project. Whereas, they are selling a development very similar to Northshore Town Center only ten miles away.

One point during the open house the city representatives did get across is that the developer can do what they want with the site. Specifically, if they do not want to build a loop road (due to cost, whatever) to eliminate the need for an egress to the Springbrook community they do not have to.

Depending on who you spoke with from the City of Alcoa, the information varied. In speaking with upper management last week, we were told it might be possible to have a fourth option, much less invasive, for the backdoor access out of the new developement. At this meeting we were told that the fourth option was not possible based on information that should have been known prior to last week's meeting. All along it has been reported the City of Alcoa would be paying $2 million for part of the initial road project to get this development jump-started. Yesterday, citizens were being told the city would not have to put out $2 million, the developer would cover that cost. However, it was cleared up towards the end of the day, after numerous people had been told differently, that the City of Alcoa would be ponying up $2 million. One the first day of the open house, there was talk about the brownfield (potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant) on the site and the care that must be taken to develop certain areas. On this second day, it was mentioned that one of the alleged brownfields was in fact not a brownfield.

The City Manager said it will take four years to make back the $2 million spent by the city for the road. He said the sales tax generated by the business(es) in the new retail center will bring in the payback. They probably said something similar when selling the Pellissippi Place development. What have we got to show for that investment?

Several people questioned the effect on property values. City representatives are unable to answer this question, understandably so. One woman in particular was preparing to put her high-end house on the market this week. At her realtors suggestion, she came in specifically to determine if any proposed changes would affect buyers interest in her house. She is hoping the signs by residents protesting the shopping center access to Springbrook will go away.

One fear brought up by many residents was the additional traffic will likely not obey the speed limit and bring dangerous situations to the many children that play freely in all areas of the Springbrook community and park. Existing problems were reported on Hunt Road, Mills Street, and Wright Road. One resident, a pediatric emergency room nurse, was very concerned with the possibility of accidents resulting in more ER visits. The city spokesmen indicated any problem now or in the future should be reported to the City of Alcoa Police Department. City Administration has no conrol over traffic habits. However, it would seem that traffic patterns designed by the City Administration does give them some control over traffic habits. If you divert traffic to an area that is not meant to have high levels of traffic, then it is the City Administration that is initiating the problem that the police must then correct. Does the City of Alcoa Police Department have enough staff to protect residents and control traffic habits now? What is being budgeted for the future when this development will possibly attract much more traffic to Alcoa roads? Currently, they are projecting over 10,000 average daily trips in 2013 to this new development. Of those, 33.3% (3,400) are projected to use the Springbrook community access.

One promise made three times during the final hours of the open house was that, "if the neighborhood wanted the access road to Springbrook torn out after the new TDOT Hunt Road interchange was completed, it could happen". FYI, the TDOT Hunt Road interchange is expected to be completed in 5-8 years.

The one thing I found out from attending this open house is that there is no real plan for this development except for a $5 million road and the hope for a new traditional retail center in the next year or so. After that, there is nothing definite as to how this site will be developed. There is hope for a New Urbanist town center, but it would appear plans for that type of development are on the back burner. Anyone want to record their thoughts as to what will be on this site in 5-10-20 years?

One more comment from the

One more comment from the City of Alcoa administration I want to get recorded. They believe the new retail store they think is coming in 2013 will be a brick building similar to the old Alcoa Aluminum office buildings to give character to the development.

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