Dreaming Big Along The Riverfront

Urban Story Ventures Reveals Its Vision For The “West End”

Friday, March 22, 2019 - by Ella Kliger

Plans for the new neighborhood of West End are underway on the 112 acres that includes the old Alstom plant. Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl and Partners gave a picture-rich presentation Thursday that showed designs for cultivated community spaces, a corporate headquarters, townhouses, a performance space, and commercial spaces including lodging. Manufacturing jobs are also a part of the equation for the south end of the parcel owned by Jimmy White and Hiren Desai of Urban Story Ventures.

Mr. Dover wrote Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns and has invested decades studying how to make livable communities. While underscoring that this is a draft that is open to revision, Mr. Dover enthusiastically delivered a talk about how his team visualizes a complete overhaul of the area.

“Cities are never finished, they’re continually works in progress. They’re like giant works of art where many, many people collaborate. So we approach a site like this with a lot of humility because lots of people have already thought about it, and they’ve lived their lives here…{this site} was really like an industrial wall between the city of Chattanooga and its river. There was and is a fence around all 112 acres here. You could only enter and approach the riverfront in this area with permission. And that’s begun changing.” He spoke about the Blue Goose Hollow Trail and how people can walk along the river there, but only a small slice of riverfront property. That is slated to change dramatically.

In their future, the area around Blue Goose Hollow Trail will be expanded into an extensive riverside park that will open onto “prestigious addresses and landmark locations”. Reconnecting people to the river where there has not been access for so long along an industrial tract of land is a key element of West End.

“This should be a place for everybody, not just a playground for the super-rich. It will be a place, we can be pretty certain, where folks with lots of money and choices about where to go will naturally want to be. It’s not hard to figure out how to make it attractive to people with lots of choices, they’ll be choosing it. What we need to spend time also working on is getting the rest of us to have a way to enjoy this space and participate in it, and that’s where the attainable housing components and affordable commerce components come in,” said Mr. Dover. He indicated that size of residential units and scope of views would contribute to price differences.

The residential components were categorized in the presentation under “Attainable Housing”. The elements included intentional inclusivity and workforce housing partners. “The real goal is an affordable life, not just an affordable house,” he said. Mr. Dover described how bringing more jobs to the population center of the region and reducing transportation costs creates a lower total cost. Mr. Dover said “If you have a great restaurant that you want to open in this neighborhood, we want your master chef to have a place to live in this neighborhood, too. That’s the intentionality.” He said that creating below market housing could be done with “a whole suite of tools” such as housing tax credits if those are available, public-private partnerships, and working with employers to consider housing as a method of retention and recruitment.

“When we design a neighborhood, what we’re doing fundamentally is designing human habitat. We’re trying to create a place where people like to be, and can live their lives productively, live healthy and happy lives…The umbrella idea here is a livable neighborhood, a community that’s part of our city-wide ecosystem of civilization,” said Mr. Dover. His understanding of the ecosystem of Chattanooga goes back more than 20 years when he was part of the planning process for development in Southside Chattanooga.

It’s clear that Mr. Dover believes in trees and how they shape a community. The plans call for at least 1500 new trees, shade trees, inviting trees. Encouraging people to walk under those trees is underlined by the 10-point plan for a car-optional neighborhood. “You can actually move around in such a neighborhood without wearing a car,” he said. The plans incorporate bike lanes separated from car lanes by trees, a density plan that brings housing and jobs together in practical ways, and street mapping that results in slower driving and happier pedestrians.

Contributing to green engineering elements are clever wastewater management strategies such as creating a canal and other water features that will be landscaped to attract people while filtering runoff to clean the water before it reaches the Tennessee. Reminders of the history of industrial activity could be kept by transforming some of the buildings into new structures. Mr. Dover imagines the steel skeleton of “Bay 46 kept here, partly remains enclosed, partly remains open to the sky facing the riverfront park. And just for fun we made a beach out of the ADM site.”

In the picture, Bay 46 has CHATTANOOGA across the top and serves as a performance space; there are yellow beach umbrellas where Archer Daniels Midland now loads barges.

Mr. Dover used “What if…” a lot in his talk. The execution of this big picture plan is expected to take at least ten years and will evolve throughout the planning and zoning processes. Public squares, vistas, streets that connect the neighborhood to the river with signature views are threaded through the design. The new pattern of blocks and streets is designed to fan out to maximize the natural views and architecture that might become intertwined with the name of our city. This design template is intended to provide a toolkit for the development of industrial assets into a neighborhood that draws on our history rather than paves over it.

 

 


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