Chattanooga Times Free Press

River­front Park­way clos­ing Sun­days as plan­ners study wa­ter­front’s fu­ture

- BY MIKE PARE Chattanooga · Tennessee · Sacramento · Ohio · Starbucks · Redbank, New Jersey · Bob Corker · Tennessee Aquarium

Re­spond­ing to cit­i­zen in­put from the on­go­ing study to reen­er­gize Chat­tanooga’s wa­ter­front, River­front Park­way will close for the next four Sun­days in front of the Ten­nessee Aquar­ium.

“We heard this point from com­mu­nity mem­bers with chil­dren that River­front Park­way is in­tim­i­dat­ing,” said Amy Donahue of the non­profit down­town re­de­vel­op­ment group River City Co., which com­mis­sioned the wa­ter­front plan­ning ef­fort late last year.

The road will close from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Sun­day through Nov. 8, weather per­mit­ting, from Power Al­ley to East Aquar­ium Way near the Ed­win Ho­tel, she said.

The aim is to en­able fam­i­lies to bet­ter uti­lize the Ross’s Land­ing area with­out having to worry about traf­fic, Donahue said, not­ing that road clos­ing per­mits were ob­tained from the city.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to have more room to safely spread out and en­joy the river­front,” she said.

Donahue said the work on the wa­ter­front plan, which is ex­pected to have ini­tial find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions early next year, has shown that peo­ple aren’t com­fort­able with River­front Park­way as it is now.

“We’re hear­ing over and over again, whether it’s down­town stake­hold­ers or peo­ple who may not visit that of­ten, that there’s this pre­dom­i­nant theme,” she said.

Donahue termed the tem­po­rary clos­ing over the next month “a test.”

“Does the com­mu­nity like this? Is it ben­e­fi­cial?” she asked. “We don’t know what the study will rec­om­mend. They’re not done lis­ten­ing.”

The plan­ning process will chart the fu­ture of the dis­trict bor­dered by the Ten­nessee River, Fourth Street, Cameron Hill and the Bluff View Art Dis­trict.

A plan was to be ready by July 4, but the coro­n­avirus pan­demic dis­rupted the time­line.

The fu­ture of River­front Park­way, the aquar­ium’s con­nec­tion to the river, AT& T Field, and ways to make Fourth, Broad and Mar­ket streets more peo­ple and busi­ness friendly were to un­dergo study by plan­ners.

Dar­ren Meyer, prin­ci­pal at the Ohio firm MKSK that’s con­duct­ing the study, said the com­pany does a lot of work with cities re­turn­ing to their river­fronts. What’s un­usual in this in­stance is that Chat­tanooga was a pi­o­neer in do­ing so, and now it wants to take an­other look with fresh eyes, he said.

Called One River­front Chat­tanooga, the plan’s pri­mary fo­cus is to help build a dis­trict “that’s for peo­ple and par­tic­u­larly Chat­tanoogans,” Meyer said. “If you make it walk­a­ble, liv­able, com­fort­able … that’s the ris­ing tide that raises all ships.”

Donahue said the pan­demic ex­tended the amount of time MKSK can get feed­back from cit­i­zens.

An­other way plan­ners will gain in­put is through a non-con­tact out­door scav­enger hunt that’s un­der­way, she said.

Start­ing at the Star­bucks cafe on Broad Street at The Block, peo­ple can scan a QR code on their cell phones to be­gin, she said. To get their next clue, play­ers must an­swer a quick ques­tion re­lated to the wa­ter­front. There are 10 stops all within the wa­ter­front area, Donahue said. Pa­per copies of the scav­enger hunt also are avail­able in­side the Star­bucks, she said.

“It’s to get peo­ple to give us in­for­ma­tion about the wa­ter­front,” Donahue said. “… What’s work­ing well on the river­front? What would they like to see?” The scav­enger hunt is in place un­til Nov. 15, she said.

Con­cern­ing the Sun­day clos­ings of River­front Park­way, Donahue said there won’t be any ven­dors or live mu­sic be­cause of the coro­n­avirus. But plans are to place tem­po­rary seat­ing and um­brel­las, she said.

The nearby 200 block of Broad Street has been shut down on week­ends since La­bor Day to en­able pedes­tri­ans, restau­rants and re­tail­ers to spill out into the street, Donahue said.

“It’s been very suc­cess­ful,” she said, adding the Broad Street clo­sure will con­tinue through Nov. 1.

For River­front Park­way, Donahue said de­tours will be posted for ve­hi­cle traf­fic. Sun­days were picked for the clos­ings to not im­pact most de­liv­er­ies or truck traf­fic in­volv­ing nearby busi­nesses, she said.

At a meet­ing in Jan­uary shortly af­ter the plan­ning ef­fort started, draw­ing more than 200 peo­ple to of­fer ideas to re­vive the wa­ter­front, curb­ing traf­fic on River­front Park­way was raised.

Jim Wilde­man of Chat­tanooga said he was at that meet­ing be­cause of River­front Park­way.

“It has an aw­ful lot of trucks,” he said.

River­front Park­way was built more than a half­cen­tury ago as a four-lane, lim­ited-ac­cess high­way in large part to move in­dus­trial truck traf­fic. But as traf­fic vol­ume dropped, a de­bate en­sued about the use of the space.

With the emer­gence of the $120 mil­lion 21st Cen­tury Wa­ter­front Plan in 2005 by for­mer Mayor Bob Corker, the road near the aquar­ium was nar­rowed and it be­came a more pedes­trian- friendly, twolane boule­vard.

Still, when the aquar­ium opened in 1992, builders in­cluded a break in a wall near River­front Park­way, which was seen by some as rep­re­sent­ing an ef­fort by Chat­tanooga to even­tu­ally fully re­turn to the river.

 ?? STAFF FILE PHOTO ?? Traf­fic passes be­neath the Mar­ket Street Bridge af­ter River­front Park­way.
STAFF FILE PHOTO Traf­fic passes be­neath the Mar­ket Street Bridge af­ter River­front Park­way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA