Visions for remakes of the vicinity of Main and Broad streets and for the Fourth Street Corridor were announced as Urban Design Challenge winners Thursday night.
“The Civic Vision Award” chosen by popular vote went to the project planned for Main and Broad. It was a collaborative effort by Hefferlin and Kronenberg Architects, Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, and Artech.
This design was referred to as “Broad Jump,” because the renaissance that has already begun on the eastern end of Main Street needs to jump Broad Street and continue westward. The plan created open, public spaces, buildings scaled to create the feel of a neighborhood with a mixture of residential and commercial structures. Pedestrian traffic was encouraged, and it created a transportation corridor that would connect the area to surrounding communities. It also included a sports arena to be built beside Finley Stadium.
“The River City Challenge Champion” chosen by three judges was the Fourth Street Corridor. It was developed by representatives from Elemi Architects, DC Sawyer Design Group, the Strauss Company and McNutt Community Consulting. This plan seeks to make a “cultural gate” to the Creative Discovery Museum and the Riverfront districts at the intersection of Fourth Street and US 27. The planners have urged TDOT to relocate the access ramps 100 feet westward toward Cameron Hill since the roadway itself will be moved. This would in effect gain an entire city block and allow for expansion of the CDM and the addition of a Celestial Science Center- a new cultural attraction, and a terraced plaza to use as an amphitheater. A three-story building for rental housing is planned which would provide 24-hour activity, as well as a boutique hotel, an open air market and new parking deck. This proposal would also create a linear park with a 20-foot-wide landscaped median with plantings and seating, wide sidewalks and a pedestrian bridge. All along the corridor, commercial activity would be re-directed toward Fourth Street. The design encompasses Fourth Street from Market Street (east) to US 27 (west).
The jurors pointed out that this design possessed more substance than style. It creates a gateway into the city, and it connects pedestrians to the street. It was commented that the beauty of the project is that it could happen incrementally.
In July 2011, River City Company launched an initiative to create concept plans for sites seen as important to Chattanooga’s future. A challenge was created to energize the community regarding a vision for downtown. The project was made possible by the support of the Benwood Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation and Maclellan Family Foundations.
River City identified six sites that have the potential to contribute to the future vitality of the city. They are the 700 Block, The Civic Forum Block, Patten Parkway, Fourth Street Corridor, vine Street Corridor and Main and Broad Streets. Six design teams consisting of planners, designers and architects from different firms were formed and assigned to each of the defined areas. The plans they created were revealed throughout the past year at individual presentations, culminating at the Design Challenge Grand Finale held at Track 29.
The judges have all been active in urban design in regional Southern cities. Henry Turley is the founder of Henry Turley Company in Memphis, a firm that specializes in creating “a vision to develop better places for people to live, work and grow.” Mr. Turley has been instrumental in much of the redevelopment of downtown Memphis. Cheryl Morgan is currently the director of Auburn’s Urban Design Studio in Birmingham and has taught architecture at Auburn for 23 years. Scott Wall is the director of the school of architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He was part of the original Design Studio in the 1980’s that worked on the new vision that has transformed downtown Chattanooga over the past 30 years.
Kim White, CEO of the River City Company led an informal discussion with the three jurors about the project. Asking them for general observations, Mr. Turley said that it was “perfectly Chattanooga” to develop ideas through dialogue. Ms. Morgan said it projected optimism, and Mr. Wall said he was here at the beginning of the city’s Renaissance 30 years ago and that “it’s an amazing place with amazing people”.
When asked which project or element of one of the projects stood out, Mr. Wall said that he liked seeing the concept for a block turn into the vision for a street, in turn creating a neighborhood. He saw the challenge as a vision for something that is actually possible, and said the designers had not been afraid to change and push against tradition. Ms. Morgan agreed, saying it was a beautiful balance between a big idea and something that was do-able. Mr. Turley responded that the creators had balanced past use of the sites with the potential of the future, believing that anything is possible.
Scott Walls commented that each of the projects built on one another and the ideas were not just replicated. He didn’t feel that he was looking at the same project six times, he said. It was said that all six locations have an important role to play in the future.
Is there any project you see, that might have real life potential for development? asked Ms. White. Mr. Turley told her that reality occurs when lenders like the project. He also told her that anything with downtown housing is a “real” project, and that he sees Chattanooga now as a good downtown lending environment. Mr. Wall said that each individual project has a critical piece with the most synergy. What that is must be figured out to get something started, then that will cause other things to happen. There was agreement that development is dependent on a partnership between citizens and government.
The last question for the experts was now what do we do next with this synergy? What is the next tangible step? Mr. Turley said that in his experience he has realized that “you have to do it before people will believe it.” You need to see the will of the community and of the citizens to see where and when to begin, said Mr. Wall. Ms. White responded that the 400 people who came to the presentation should indicate that.