What Downtown Needs

Monday, January 27, 2020
Dear Jim and Kim,

Thank you for launching River City's effort to look at what can be done to re-energize and protect the Riverfront area. I will not be able to make it to meetings this month so I decided to jot down my thoughts. I would appreciate it if you would include a copy of this email with the feedback "record" for Wednesday's community meeting.


We need a retail game-changer, like Trader Joe’s or Mast General Store.
I spent time in downtown Knoxville this summer and saw first hand the difference Mast has made in getting people downtown. 

We need to protect critical open space. At the top of the list is the Chattanooga Green, the area in front of River Pier Landing (condos, parking garage, Hennen’s, Blue Plate). 

We need to make Riverfront Parkway less of a barrier to critical connectivity with the river. In the vicinity of the Aquarium, crossing the street on foot is neither convenient nor safe. One idea would be to no longer allow semi-trucks to travel through this corridor. In Portland some years ago, the city went so far as to relocate a stretch of their interstate in order to create Tom McCall Waterfront Park on the Willamette River. I'm not suggesting something that dramatic, but I believe we can find some traffic calming ideas.

We need to make this part of the downtown friendlier for pedestrians. One idea would be to create a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of 4th and Market. It would give pedestrians a signalized opportunity to cross in any direction at what is a very wide intersection.

We need to make locals and visitors alike more aware of the two parking garages in this areaincluding information on the number of vacant spaces at any given time.

We need to make parking in the two garages free on weekends, as Knoxville has done.

We need more transparency about possible plans to move the current Lookouts Stadium to the former US Pipe/Wheland foundry site. While this is not inherently a bad idea, it raises several public policy questions that need to be discussed in the sunshine. Would it be good public policy to allow a tall condo or mixed-use complex on a hill that close to the Aquarium and River? Would moving the ballpark remove the tourist/family synergy of its being near the Aquarium and Creative Discovery Museum? Is a potential condo developer contemplating that a tax increment financing (TIF) district would be created to pay for street and other infrastructure? Are the owners of the foundry site contemplating that a TIF district would be formed in the South Broad area to pay for infrastructure? Is the owner of the Lookouts contemplating that a new stadium would be paid for by taxpayers?

We need to make sure that the construction of the new pedestrian “Scramble” on First Street between Market and Cherry does not compromise public safety. Some 150 condos rely on Cherry Street for access to their parking garages and for emergency vehicles. First Street needs to remain open. 

Helen Burns Sharp


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