Shopping center might push West Knox residents out of “generational” treasure

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – In the Brexhill neighborhood sits a field that is the keepsake of memories.

“It means a lot to us,” Megan Potts, a resident, said.

The two-acred land along Ebenezer Rd. in West Knox is where parents like Megan Potts remember teaching her kids how to ride a bike. Relationships between neighbors, once strangers, were built there.

“Particularly during COVID and everything that’s going on , we realize the value of green space,” Potts said.

Their memories might be all that’s left.

Knoxville developer Holrob is asking officials to rezone the land from commercial into a neighborhood commercial property.

The plan is to have a shopping center with restaurants, according to Holrob president, Mark Shipe.

“I know developers want to develop – that’s their job, but not every beautiful green space needs to be torn up for new buildings,” Susannah Finley, a resident, said.

While some are in support of the idea, thousands have signed Potts’ online petition. They’re willing to go so far as raising money to purchase the land. They’d like to see the space transform into a park or greenway.

“So that generations to come can enjoy it, because generations of kids have grown in this neighborhood and have a connection to this land,” Potts said.

Residents said more stores in the area are unnecessary and fear heavy traffic will pose a safety threat to children walking to the nearby school.

Shipe said he hears their concerns but disagrees.

“I don’t think it’s going to be dangerous to anyone. We’re not bringing in traffic to begin with, we’re just servicing the traffic that’s already there,” Shipe said.

The growing attention and action has created compromise.

“One of them said they didn’t want to see a laundromat there, so we’re going to restrict a laundromat from going into the shops,” Shipe said.

Regardless of the outcome, working together, is one memory Potts and her neighbors can share.

“Get involved in what’s happening in your community, and learn how you can make a difference,” Potts said.

The Knox County planning staff is not recommending the project, but it’s up to planning commissioners to make a final decision. They meet Thursday at 1 p.m.

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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