Merchants and University of Tennessee students alike have been eagerly awaiting one of the final touches of the Cumberland Avenue rejuvenation – the greening up of The Strip.
The temperatures are colder. Tree root systems are dormant. UT fall semester classes are finished. It’s now the perfect time for digging holes and planting 93 big trees up and down Cumberland, between 16thand 22nd streets.
The work begins at 5 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18, and will continue around the clock through Thursday, Dec. 21.
Lane closures will be minimized during the day, and planting crews will avoid rush-hour closures. Flag crews and uniformed officers will direct traffic around the work crews. Side streets will remain open as alternate routes.
A range of species of trees was selected by the City’s Urban Forestry Division – everything from round-lobed sweetgums, to lacebark elms, to sweetbay magnolias, to greenspire little leaf linden. The 4-inch caliper trees will be 15 to 20 feet tall when planted.
The tree plantings is one of the final steps in the two-year top-to-bottom reconstruction of Cumberland Avenue, which was substantially completed in August – on time and within budget.
Cumberland between 17th and 22nd streets has been transformed into a safer, more pedestrian-friendly corridor with new utility infrastructure. The sidewalks have been widened, traffic flow has been improved, and a raised median and left-turn lanes at intersections have been added.
The public investment of $25 million in infrastructure has helped leverage more than $190 million in private investment in retail storefronts, groceries, entertainment venues, overnight lodging, restaurants and student apartments.
Two new apartment buildings, The Standard and Evolve, have opened since 2014, and a third – the TENN Student Living mixed-use redevelopment project – is scheduled to open next year. Combined, the three properties will be home to about 1,450 students.
But at the same time that the new Cumberland has become more economically robust, it’s also becoming greener – both leafier and more sustainably responsible – than ever:
n Energy-efficient LED lights have improved the quality of the illumination along the corridor while decreasing energy consumption;
n The new stormwater infrastructure filters trash and pollution, ensuring that run-off water reaching Third Creek is the cleanest in modern times; and
n The widespread use of the Silva Cells – a trademark product name for a box-like planter structure – is a significant improvement over traditional planting methods for trees. Silva Cells provide greater soil volume, and they support the weight of the overhead sidewalk and reduce the need to compact the soil to support the sidewalk, which helps the tree roots.
“The project team wanted to create the right atmosphere along the new Cumberland Avenue,” said Anne Wallace, the City’s Deputy Director of Redevelopment and the Cumberland project manager.
“We envisioned a place where visitors, residents and stakeholders will want to spend quality time, with inviting, wide, shady sidewalks, places to sit, and easy transit connections. We eagerly await spring, when the new trees green up the whole corridor.”