Skip to main content

UT has chosen Lenoir City to be its 2016–17 Smart Communities Initiative (SCI) “Mini” program partner.

Through SCI, UT pairs faculty and students with Tennessee cities, counties, special districts, and other governmental organizations to engage in real-world problem solving aimed at improving the region’s economy, environment, and social fabric. SCI is a key component of Experience Learning, the university’s initiative that emphasizes experiential learning through real-world problem solving.

Smart Communities InitiativeThe 2016–17 academic year will be the third for SCI. UT’s inaugural partner was the City of Cleveland in 2014–15. This year, UT has partnered with the Southeast Tennessee Development District. Faculty and students in twenty courses have been working on twenty-two projects ranging from researching of Cherokee Indians who walked the Trail of Tears to developing proposals for water quality improvements across the region.

In coming years, SCI will continue to work with the Southeast Development District as a sustaining partner of the program while also engaging in scaled-down partnerships with small or rural communities. During the 2016-17 academic year, SCI will work on five to ten projects for Lenoir City.

Governed by a six-member city council and mayor, Lenoir City’s SCI projects will be aimed at enhancing the downtown central business district. The Loudon County Visitors Bureau, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency also will be partners in this work. Pat Phillips, director of the Loudon County Economic Development Agency, will serve as the program coordinator for the SCI. Amber Scott, assistant city administrator of Lenoir City, will serve as community liaison with Mayor Tony R. Aikens and the City Council.

Kelly Ellenburg, director of UT’s Office of Service-Learning, which oversees the SCI, said the program presents an opportunity for community leaders, citizens, students, and faculty to come together and make a big impact on the downtown and surrounding area.

“This is an opportunity for us to work with a smaller community that has a whole lot going for it,” Ellenburg said. “We hope our students can bring some additional capacity to help them actualize their vision for the downtown. It is a charming, tight-knit community.”

The SCI will be seeking faculty and courses for numerous projects, including:

  • Collecting citizen input on existing and preferred uses for the downtown area and identifying opportunities for market and retail growth in alignment with local needs and preferred uses.
  • Developing a comprehensive brand strategy and visual identity for the downtown and Lenoir City Merchants Association in partnership with downtown businesses, merchants, and community members.
  • Proposing design concepts for downtown building facades and shop interiors, and proposing comprehensive marketing strategies for downtown businesses.
  • Identifying a broad range of strategies to engage the local community in the downtown area, including opportunities for live music and public art.
  • Developing a downtown master plan that incorporates vertical development, mixed use concepts, pedestrian, and bicycle access, and softscapes.

Aikens said Lenoir City officials are looking forward to the partnership with UT.

“We think it will be a great asset for the downtown Lenoir City area,” he said.

Faculty interested in participating in SCI projects should email

For more information about the project, see the SCI website.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,