An arena by Finley Stadium, a new hotel and parking garage and a light rail line with a small station are part of the Southside vision for the final project of the Urban Design Challenge from River City Company on Tuesday afternoon.
The challenge was to create a plan for the best use of underdeveloped areas on Chattanooga’s Southside, and was a collaborative effort from Hefferlin and Kronenberg Architects, Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, and Artech. The boundaries of the proposed plan are 13th Street and Main on the north, 20th Street on the south, Market Street on the east and Highway 27 on the west.
The purpose of the total plan is to try to make a connection to the surrounding areas of the Southside, the central business district downtown, to St. Elmo, Lookout Mountain, UTC and the Riverwalk and Riverpark, said Paul Darr. Connections will be created through greenways, open spaces and a transportation corridor. Throughout the proposed development plan there will be large, public open parks surrounded by mixed use buildings scaled to project the feeling of a neighborhood and to provide recreation areas. Wide sidewalks with benches, shade trees, water features, interactive art, landscaping and special paving should encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The greenway system would connect to other existing walkways around the city, such as the Riverwalk and the UTC greenway.
The master plan concentrates on four areas of re-development. A park at the northwest corner of Broad and Main Streets named “Pilgrim’s Park” would include a large urban plaza with a greenway referred to as the “Main Terrain” on the western edge. There is a light rail system planned, which would connect the south side to the Sim Center on the campus of UTC, and MLK Boulevard to the north. It would use existing rail tracks and have a station in the plaza. The concept for this mode of transporting people would be much like a trolley and could be used to connect the university to the Southside for game-day events.
Heidi Hefferlin said that artists started the renaissance on the eastern end of Main Street, and now the development needs to jump Broad Street and continue westward. This phase of the project would utilize land now occupied by the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plant which would have to be relocated. The designers visualize two- and four-story mixed-use buildings that would frame another park. The layout of the buildings would be in four quadrants with green space between them. There would possibly be underground parking at the site.
The surrounding areas are now home to local businesses and restaurants and the planners want to keep it that way. They see those businesses occupying the ground level of these buildings with living spaces on the floors above. These apartments would satisfy a need for 1,000-2,000-square-foot affordable housing.
The buildings in this neighborhood would have the corners cut away to provide more public use, and the size would stay small to provide a human scale and the feel of a neighborhood. The plan would provide abundant wide sidewalks and trees.
Another area targeted for improvement is the corridor where there is an off-ramp from Highway 27 onto Main Street. This qualifies as a “gateway site” said Heidi Hefferlin, but this area is now void and un-used. TDOT has plans to move the exit to 12th Street which would free up space at this end of Main Street. It would be given a facelift by adding more sidewalks, trees, public art, pedestrian lighting and a designated bike path. A parking deck with spaces for 450-500 cars is planned for the site, as well as a new hotel. The planners hope that the land where T-Bones now is located could be re-developed and that the restaurant would occupy a space in the new building.
The final large project that was planned for this challenge is a sports arena which would be built on the north parking lot behind Finley Stadium. UTC’s master plan calls for a larger amphitheater to replace McKenzie Arena. Because it only seats 11,000, Chattanooga is unable to attract some big events such as basketball tournaments and concerts. The proposed structure could accommodate 15,000. The designers that created this proposed plan chose the Southside location because in the immediate vicinity there are six existing hotels, and 12 food and beverage outlets. The convention center is nearby, and there is parking available for 4,200-7,000 cars. The skate and dog parks would be moved to a more appropriate location and that land would be used for more parking with a large garden space that could be used for tailgating.
Another benefit for the location to be adjacent to Finley Stadium, is that the two venues would be able to share locker rooms and could be managed by one entity and one staff.
The price for this new facility is estimated to be $200 million-$225 million. Craig Kronenberg told the crowd that it would promote civic pride, but would do little to create jobs or jolt the economy. He said that the impact it would have is a catalyst for development across the street. This new building should activate and energize the entire neighborhood with people parking, shopping and eating on the way to events.
When the planners were asked about the timeline for implementing the plan, David Hudson answered, at least 30 years. He said, “We did the hard part; someone else will have to raise the money.” As designers, he said, they weren’t taught how to do that.
Ms. Hefferlin added that three projects are already in work, due to private efforts. She said that the Main Terrain project should be started this fall, and a new piece of art will be installed somewhere in the district. Also, one mixed-use building has already been started, but she could not divulge the name of the developer.
David Hudson thanked River City Company for the opportunity to work on the project, on behalf of all the designers. He said that it had invigorated three design teams and everybody that worked on it remarked how much fun it had been. He added that if the plan has any impact on the neighborhood, that it was time well spent.
Kim White, president of River City, extended her thanks to the Benwood, Lyndhurst and Maclellan Foundations who made the Urban Design Challenges possible. She added that the largest group so far had attended the Tuesday presentation of the final concept. She also announced that Aug. 23 there will be a “finale” at Track 29 at 5:30 p.m. where the public will be able to vote on the six projects that have been done and two awards will be given, “The Challenge Champion” and the “Civic Choice Award”.