KNOXVILLE, Tenn.(WVLT)-- The University Commons project has gotten the greenlight, thanks to commissioners voting for a $10 million tax break. But some folks are wondering what kind of an impact this new shopping center might have on traffic in the downtown area.
Some drivers say it's easy to get frustrated on Cumberland Avenue.
"During the day when I'm trying to get to school, it's pretty congested," says Victor Saltedo, a University of Tennessee student.
In the future, Saltedo and others might be trying to get to the University Commons shopping center, planned for the old Fulton Bellows property off of Cumberland Avenue. Developers say the center will feature a traditional Walmart without the groceries, but you'll be able to buy those at Publix, which is also slated for the center. Officials say the project will create about 1600 jobs and pump $200 million into the local economy.
"There will be a lot of construction jobs and there will be a lot of engineering and design jobs - and that's important in the short run. And in the long run, having that sort of economic opportunity for those who live closely to get into retail jobs and entry level jobs and even management jobs," says Bill Lyons, Deputy to the Knoxville Mayor.
But despite the projected economic benefits, some are also worried what it will mean for traffic along Cumberland Avenue.
"Right now, it's too much traffic on the road - I notice between 3 to 6 PM, it's bumper to bumper traffic. My customers say it takes 10 minutes to get in and out from this parking lot," says Rakesh Patel, owner of the Exxon Tiger Mart on Cumberland Avenue.
But Bill Lyons says there is a plan.
"Basically a new road going from Cumberland into the project to service it, then also a new bridge road will go back towards Neyland and hitting Joe Johnson," says Lyons.
Lyons says the two entrances plus signal adjustments might even reduce traffic in the area in the future - although Patel says he'll believe that when he sees it.
Project developer Budd Cullom says right now, he's working on getting the final construction drawings and permits done for the project. He says if all goes according to schedule, construction could begin as early as October.