Knoxville and the rise of a creative class

Could a neighborhood for the creative class – those people who hold the jobs that innovate, move and change (artists, musicians, designers, architects, scientists and so on) – be forming along Jackson Avenue and into the Old City?

Chuck Morris, principal of Morris Creative Group on Jackson Ave., said he’s had conversations with city staff about just that idea.

“At the beginning, it was an idea of, as simple as, ‘Let’s hang some banners on some light posts’.”

But Morris is hip to the work of Creative Class Group, and specifically, Richard Florida. Florida speaks to and researches and watches the groups of people who help drive economies in an area.

There are many ways to create and retain that vibrancy of an economy, whether it’s the industrial park, nice schools and civic amenities, or – in this case – developing an area for the creative types.

Anyway, Morris was likening what could happen here to what’s going on in Charleston and Detroit.

Think of uniting the designers along Jackson and the galleries on the 100 block of Gay Street and other creative goings-on in the neighborhood. Off the top of my head, those places include:

  • Morris Creative Group
  • Sanders Pace Architecture
  • Red Chair Architects
  • John H. Daniel tailor
  • Lox (hair is creative, too)

And nearby:

  • UT Art Gallery
  • Tennessee Stage
  • Theatre Knoxville
  • Pilot Light

… there’s other stuff, but I can’t remember it all off the top of my head. A new interior design place is opening next to Morris as well. Anyway, but the idea that taking some of the remaining areas for studio space or apartments for artists could galvanize a whole creative end of the city. Morris is thinking that it could even include finding grant money or offering some kinds of tax credits.

… and then see it totally gentrified, pushing the artists to another neighborhood that’s inexpensive. (My words, and I’m kidding – only kind of.)

“If we did the corridor and we start to look at the connections to the other cities, and you bring that live-work-play model,” he said, “attracting young creatives to Knoxville to live and work, we’ve got affordable housing right next door to live, play and work. And a lot of the pieces, we have.”

From here, Morris suggested people in the area get together and talk.

“We probably just need to have a town hall meeting or a roundtable and look at some of the other cities that have done this,” he said.


About Gerald

A journalist in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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2 Responses to Knoxville and the rise of a creative class

  1. jennifer corum says:

    Robin Easter Design and the Shelton Group are both also on Jackson Ave.
    Nathanna Design Studio, Burning Fork Studio, Mockingbird Events, and Blooming Earth Flowers are further down Jackson Ave (next to Sanders Pace Architecture).

    I think Mr. Morris has a great idea here.

  2. Gerald says:

    Right, Jennifer – thanks for pointing this out.

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