Merry Christianmas!

Well friends, big week in the C.Rushing world. Wednesday is both the kickoff of the Urban Design Challenge and the 39th Annual Worldwide Celebration of Christianmas.  I won’t run Christianmas  into the ground other than to say that if you haven’t finished your shopping yet, you still have a day or two (although the crowds will be nasty). However, I will take this opportunity to devote a few words to the Urban Design Challenge.

Beware the Christianmas rush.

As mentioned last week, the Urban Design Challenge is a year-long design competition sponsored by River City Company that will feature design and visioning work by local architects on six sites in downtown Chattanooga. The inevitable questions are “what are the six sites?” and “why are those sites important?”. The answers:

700 Block

This site comprises a number of now-vacant, mid-block parcels on the east side Market Street between 7th and 8th street. The site has the potential to add significant animation to the city center. The parcel almost got developed…but we know how that went down. This site has been the focus of a number of visioning and planning exercises in the past, but perhaps a new look will help provide a kick start for the future.

Civic Forum Block
This site is the block bounded by Market Street, 10th Street, Broad Street and 11th Street. The Civic Forum Block provides a unique opportunity to plan an entire city block that is currently undeveloped. The site is bounded on three sides by large, single-use buildings (TVA, EPB, Library). I’m interested to see if the designers choose to embrace or mitigate those scale issues. The Market Street edge was also a part of the original 1984 Miller Plaza plan, it will be interesting to see if the designers make any reference to that.

Patten Parkway

This site includes the Parkway itself and the parking lots to the east and southeast. The centrally located site has the potential to impact the city center and provide connections to both the University and the MLKing district. Back in my design studio days I did some kick-ass work (if I may say so) on what was essentially this same site. So I speak from experience when I say that there is wealth of potential here.

4th Street Corridor

This site focuses on 4th street from the US-27 ramp to the intersection with Market Street. The parcel to west of the Creative Discovery Museum and the Majestic Theatre parking lot are included for consideration as well. Exit 1C from US-27 is that portal through which many of our guests enter downtown. Robert Moses only knows how the TDOT US-27 “improvements” will impact this gateway. My guess is that their work will complement the casual dining restaurants, but work at cross-purposes with the task of building a great downtown. Hopefully the 4th Street team will show us the way.

Vine Street Corridor

This site includes Vine Street and adjacent undeveloped parcels from Georgia Avenue to the University. Since I’ve been in town, people have been talking about the importance of better integrating the university and downtown. This corridor seems to be a logical place to get that done. The relatively large amount of unimproved property (in the form of parking lots) should provide the designers ample opportunity to think big.

Main & Broad

This site addresses Main Street from the US-27 connection to the intersection with Market Street. In addition to the corner, the site includes the block bounded by Broad Street, 13th Street, Chestnut Street, and Main Street. This site serves as an important gateway into downtown (ditto my US-27 comments from the 4th Street site). Since the completion riverfront project, the Southside has probably seen more activity than anywhere else downtown. Consequently, I would wager that this site stands a chance of having a more “realistic” vision attached to it.

As for the folks who will be doing the work, all of the teams will be led by Chattanooga-based, licensed architects. Eleven teams made submissions for the six available Challenge sites. The winning teams will be announced at the kickoff meeting on Christianmas, July 27th at 5:30 at the Chattanoogan. The highlight of the Kickoff event will be a presentation by noted architect, planner and urban designer Alex Kreiger. Alex is with Chan Krieger NBBJ in Cambridge and has been lauded for his work in Dallas, Detroit, post-Katrina New Orleans and Shanghai, China. He is the former chair of the department of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard* Graduate School of Design.

I look forward to seeing both of my readers on Wednesday! Make sure to stop by and say hey.

*Reminds me of joke related to an Ivy League school: Once upon a time an Awbun grad was in New Haven at a bar. He turned to the lovely co-ed sitting next to him and asked "Where do you go to school at?" To which she replied "Yale". His response, "WHERE DO YOU GO TO SCHOOL AT??"....
Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

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