Framework Plan: ML King Cultural Corridor
The most successful innovation districts around the world are not only hotbeds of research and entrepreneurism, they have strong cultural identities that make them more interesting and vibrant places and more attractive to today’s knowledge based workers. They are places people want to go to socialize, be entertained, learn new things and experience diverse social settings.
Among the city’s most important cultural assets are the historic ML King Neighborhood and the east-west ML King Boulevard that connects the UTC campus to downtown. At the very heart of the Innovation District, the Bessie Smith Cultural Center (BSCC) celebrates and showcases the area’s historic role as a large and vibrant African American community and its potential for residential and commercial growth. As a symbol of the district’s future, next door is one of the nation’s largest murals on a single building, the 42,000 square foot “ML King Mural: We Shall Not Be Satisfied Until.” Corridor plans focus on the following:
The Cultural Anchor of the District
The BSCC is currently making plans for the future of the Cultural Center and rejuvenating the vision for its work and for the district. It occupies a key site in the ID, an entire block of ML King Blvd, two blocks from Market Street and Miller Park and Plaza and one block from the southernmost point of the UTC campus. The potential exists to upgrade and better position the BSCC on the block. This could create a more dense mixed-use development of the block to complement and sustain the Cultural Center and to provide additional venues and attractions.
Smart City Research
A keen interest in using the ML King Corridor as a smart city testbed emerged during the planning process. The corridor is a main downtown thoroughfare, and its proximity to UTC, and EPB, as well as the underground telecommunications fiber throughout, makes the boulevard well positioned as an outdoor urban laboratory. Both above and below ground sensors could provide ways to research such things as airborne pathogens and air quality, autonomous vehicle operations, wireless communications technologies and underground infrastructure. UTC’s new Smart Cities Urban Science and Technology initiatives are already exploring potential uses of this corridor for research.