Alton Park community leaders on Thursday afternoon joined Mayor Andy Berke, Councilman Chris Anderson, and other city and county officials to break ground at the former Charles A. Bell Elementary School site, kicking off construction that will turn a long-vacant site into a vibrant park and gathering place for the neighborhood.
“Parks impact quality of life in a number of ways, from helping make neighborhoods safer and more active to providing a place for kids to play and neighbors to meet and exchange ideas,” said Mayor Berke. “Our investment in Alton Park will revitalize a long-vacant site, turning it into an attractive amenity that will help strengthen property values for the residents who proudly call Alton Park home.”
The former school closed in 1989. An eyesore and potential safety concern, the county-owned structure was finally demolished in 2011. After the city took over the site in 2014, Alton Park neighborhood leaders along with Councilman Chris Anderson and the City’s Department of Economic & Community Development held a community engagement process to create a new green space. It will enhance the vibrancy of the neighborhood and connect residents with options for recreation and gathering.
“It’s a great project for our neighborhood and really going to be an improvement to the community and good for our community. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad to see it’s on the way,” said Alton Park resident and neighborhood leader Rosemary Porter.
City officials shared renderings, which showed plans for a quarter-mile walking path, large open lawn for community activities, benches, and a large pavilion with picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountain.
“The community has wanted this for years, and it's a project I've been working on since before I was even on the City Council. I'm so thrilled that we are finally able to make such a massive investment in Alton Park, and I will continue to work with area residents and leaders to bring more projects that lift up the community,” said Councilman Anderson, who represents District 7 where Alton Park is located.
At the groundbreaking, Councilman Anderson also gave an update on the naming process for the new park. A public input meeting to gather name ideas from community members is planned for Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. at the Bethlehem Center. It is one of multiple public input sessions with community members who have been engaged in the development and design of the park.
Mayor Berke allocated $1 million in capital funds in Fiscal Year 2015 to transform the site, and in late December of 2016, the City Council approved a contract with P&C Construction, which was on-site today moving earth and digging footers for the new park. After weather delays, construction began in late January 2017 and is expected to be complete this summer. For more information, visit connect.chattanooga.gov/newpark.