Projected mayoral candidate and former River City CEO Kim White discussed the past and future of the riverfront and Northshore’s development.
“We’re trying to look at how we connect all the parts of our city, and we’re taking another look at the riverfront,” said Ms. White. “It can be an example of how we can bring our community together and work together to make it better.”
She said River City’s focus is involving local citizens when it comes to making decisions.
Before COVID-19, River City held a public forum at the Aquarium, for instance.
“One of the things we’ve heard over the years is that the people have felt like their voices haven’t mattered,” said Ms. White. “So we’re excited about the riverfront planning efforts because we are being very intentional to go out to the neighborhood, to understand what kind of programming people want to see. What would bring local people back to the riverfront?”
However, the global pandemic put a stop to those sorts of large public meetings, instead replacing them with smaller and electronic ones instead.
“As we started getting out to the neighborhoods, COVID-19 hit,” said Ms. White. “And we’ve been doing a lot of Zoom meetings with smaller groups to get feedback. But until we can have meetings together, it has slowed the process down.”
Whatever the company decides to do, Ms. White’s goal was clear during the meeting. She said the delays have been somewhat beneficial for River City, and has given the company time to ponder their decisions.
“So questions we’re trying to answer include what is the riverfront’s role in making Chattanooga livable, sustainable, and competitive? How do we create a riverfront district for all Chattanoogans?”
She also listed off a string of statistics about the riverfront. She said the area attracts 1.6 million visitors a year (although that number will doubtlessly be lower for 2020), along with 4,500 parking spaces, and with six “main attractions” such as the aquarium and Hunter Museum.
“We’d like for Northshore and the riverfront are seamless with water in between,” asked Ms. White. “And how do we strengthen connectivity through the neighborhoods? How do we get students to come down there and walk across the bridge and shop at the stores and eat at the restaurants?”
She said all of these efforts are going toward giving the riverfront a “sense of place,” something she believes Northshore has but the other side of the river lacks. She hopes a few projects in the riverfront can spur what she calls “catalytic development.”
“It’s about having more people, not more buildings. How do we build a place for all Chattanoogans, and it would be great if we saw (crowds of people in the area) all the time.”