On September 29 Senator Bob Corker, former Mayor of Chattanooga will participate in the Power of Ten along with Carol Coletta of the Memphis River Parks Partnership and Andrew Trueblood, chief planner of Washington DC. Senator Corker will discuss how Chattanooga was able to transform its riverfront and share best practices and lessons for our region. Join in the discussion!
It is hard to imagine now, but in the 1960s Chattanooga had the most polluted air of any city in the US. This designation spurred the community to act and within five years, Chattanooga had met or exceeded all air quality standards. The work to address the city's air spurred the launch of a broad and aggressive effort to reimagine the city's riverfront.
Partnership for a 21st Century Waterfront
The effort to transform Chattanooga's riverfront has become a model for how leadership from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors can come together to not only spur an economic resurgence, but also improve the quality of life of residents by creating great places.
When Bob Corker became mayor of Chattanooga in 2001 the city had made a great deal of progress in transforming its riverfront. It had developed the Tennessee Riverwalk, opened the Tennessee Aquarium, converted Walnut Street Bridget to pedestrian traffic, and established Coolidge Park. But the city's downtown remained disconnected from its riverfront.
Understanding this was a major problem, Mayor Corker adopted a waterfront development master plan done by the River City Company and announced that a public-private partnership would fund and build the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront. Over a 90-day period, Corker led an effort that raised $47 million from Chattanooga's philanthropic community. A hotel-motel tax was instituted to pay back $56 million in city bonds sold for the project. Additional funds were raised from the community through private donations, as well as from land sales and federal and state sources.
The 21st Century Waterfront effort included expanding the 11-year-old Tennessee Aquarium, creating more green space with public art, and building a pedestrian connector from the heart of downtown to an expanding Hunter Museum of American Art. The transformation of Riverfront Parkway was a central element to the effort. The Parkway was a four lane, limited-access, at-grade highway along the city’s riverfront that created a barrier between the city and its riverfront. In 2004 the highway was converted into a boulevard, allowing pedestrians easy access to riverfront amenities, and providing greater connectivity to downtown Chattanooga.
A continuing effort
Development of Chattanooga's riverfront continues. The ONE Riverfront plan, which is designed to add energy to the downtown by providing more opportunities to live, work and play on the Tennessee River. In addition, a 100-acre tract along Riverfront Parkway will be developed, bringing residences and office space.
Want to learn more?
Chattanooga's Makeover Secret: A River Runs Through It (The Atlantic)
Returning to the riverfront: New development and more activation planned for Chattanooga sites along Tennessee River (Chattanooga Times Free Press)