The future of downtown's evolving landscape might include housing and parking, as well as changes to Broad Street, Patten Parkway and Miller Park.
Earlier this week, leaders with downtown economic development organization River City Company, along with the Benwood and Lyndhurst foundations, sought input about the City Center during a three-day design charrette to create the basis for ongoing design of the city's core.
“As we expected, Chattanoogans delivered once again in being an integral part in planning their city’s future," Amy Donahue with River City Company said in a prepared statement. "With 200 community members coming to both the Monday night input session and on the Wednesday night initial unveiling, River City Company was excited to share with Chattanooga what their downtown can look like in 20 years. More housing, more green space, safer roads for pedestrians and bicyclists, more parking.…there is so much potential in City Center."
A team of professionals, including experts in economic development, architecture, transportation and other fields, took input from members of the public to create the plan.
"The plan is a kind of channeling what we've heard from the community," Christian Rushing, principal at Kennedy, Coulter, Rushing & Watson, said.
On Monday night about 200 community members and stakeholders gave input at a meeting and then the design team worked for two days to create a plan out of those ideas. The team presented the working plan on Wednesday night.
Nooga.com missed the Wednesday presentation, but caught up with Rushing Thursday to get information about the highlights of the plan.
Rushing said that the team is going to refine the plan and give it to River City officials around the end of November. That plan will include results of a market study that looked at current and projected demand for residential and commercial space downtown, as well as what barriers to development there are and how to overcome them.
From there, River City leaders will work with the development partners to prioritize the different components of the plan, Donahue said.
Here are the takeaways of the initial planning:
The perception is that the city is dead outside of business hours, Rushing said. Several outside residents have commented on that recently, including the writer of this October piece.
So, to create a city center that is more vibrant, even outside business hours, the team proposes adding between 1,800 and 2,000 new housing units.
That would be done by filling existing buildings and adding new buildings, Rushing said.
"It's important to do that in a variety of price points, so everyone who wants to live downtown can," he said.
For new building possibilities, the 700 block of Market Street is the "low-hanging fruit," because River City Company already owns that land, Rushing said.
Rushing said that he's had developers say that if there was more parking downtown, they would have already developed more housing.
But parking structures are expensive to build.
So, the design team has identified locations downtown that would be suitable for parking structures and are in close proximity to where new housing could go, Rushing said.
About 1,200 new spaces could be added along Market and Broad streets, he said.
Currently, Broad Street is three lanes between the Aquarium and M.L. King Boulevard in each direction, but it doesn't need to be, Rushing said.
"Our recommendation was to take it down to two lanes in each direction, continue to have on-street parking and introduce a protected bike lane," he said.
That would also create more room for streetscaping, landscaping and sidewalks.
"We think that Miller Park would benefit from a facelift," Rushing also said.
He said the park was designed in the last '70s, when the landscape philsophy was different.
Now it should be more active and energizing than it is, he said.
Rushing and his team recommend redesigning the park to have a stronger connection with Miller Plaza, perhaps making it a larger, central and more animated public area, he said.
Patten Parkway is sort of a "diamond in the ruff," right now, but it could use some improvements too, Rushing said.
The war memorial there isn't well maintained and the road is probably too wide. The character of the buildings in the area is great, he said.
The plans for this area includes making it more pedestrian-friendly, adding landscaping and upkeep for the memorial and creating it as a space that's more inviting for music and food, he said.
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