Some call it a breezeway, some call it a tunnel, some call it a shuttle stop. Whatever the preferred nomenclature for the Broad Street structure, it has been a gathering spot for tourists and locals alike in the heart of downtown Chattanooga since the mid-1990s.
The passage at Shuttle Park North runs through the block between Chestnut Street and Broad Street and has been a primary downtown electric shuttle stop for years. In addition, tourists and locals utilize the parking decks above exit elevators and stairways into the passage before hitting the streets to go to dinner, take in a movie or sit through a Lookouts game.
Once an integral architectural feature of the old Bijou movie theater, the passage at Shuttle Park North is part of “The Block,” a name given the old cinema building in an effort to re-brand the site. When complete, “The Block” will house a new space for the Chattanooga Visitor's Center, retail spaces for Rock/Creek, and climbing walls and facilities for a new outfit, High Point Climbing.
Brent Matthews, COO of CARTA, said he is pleased with the progress of the mixed use development. He said, “It's pretty impressive to go by there. The steel is up on the front and everything is massive. It's kind of intimidating to look at it.”
Mr. Matthews said he and Jim Williamson of the River City Company have bi-weekly meetings at the site to monitor the construction progress. In a recent meeting the CARTA officials and River City Company representatives discussed the upcoming River Rocks Festival, which is a multi-disciplined outdoors sports event scheduled for the first two weekends in October.
Mr. Matthews said, “The last night of River Rocks, they are going to close down Broad Street from Third to Aquarium Way and have a big celebration down there. They are going to have climbers on Shuttle Park North climbing that night - rapelling and everything else.”
However, said Mr. Matthews, the facility will not be in normal day-to-day operation until sometime in November.
He said, “They've still got a lot of work to do inside. They may get a temporary CO (certificate of occupation) for that day, but it's not going to be open until November.
“We've been dealing with the closure of the passageway for a few weeks, almost a month.”
However, though the passageway is still closed to electric shuttle traffic, the tunnel did reopen to pedestrians last week. “If you want to park in the garage and come down and go to eat at Big River or Mellow Mushroom, you can now,” said Mr. Matthews.
Mr. Matthews said that Rock/Creek, which will be located at the corner of Third and Broad Streets, will open in two or three weeks, while High Point Climbing will open to the public probably the second week in November.
“They are looking for a restaurant on the front on Broad Street,” said Mr. Matthews. “And, there is an open space on the back corner at Chestnut and Third that they still have to rent out.”
CARTA Board Chairman Steve Jett noted that the build out of the old Bijou complex has been a complicated process. However, he said the building with its new architectural steel accents is very unique. “It's certainly not a 'cookie cutter' project.”
CARTA Executive Director Lisa Maragnano said throughout the construction process, she has stayed in contact with Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau head Bob Doak. According to Ms. Maragnano, Mr. Doak says the construction cost is coming in somewhere around $750,000.
And, Ms. Maragnano is thrilled with the way the re-imagined building is shaping up. “It's amazing to see. Wait until you see it. It's just phenomenal.”