Christianmas Edition

Today is the first day in the two and a half year history of the blog that my weekly (or weakly as the case may be) writing time has fallen on a Christianmas. My initial impulse was to take the week off in celebration, but I have decided to soldier on. I am, however, working on some pretty heavy stuff these days so I’m going to go easy on myself with an off-the-top-of-my-head list. On my forty-first birthday I offer:

41 Random Thoughts on the Past, Present and Future of
Urban Design in Chattanooga.

1. Urban design is ultimately about people. Both individual and collective. 

2. The values, beliefs and ideals of community are expressed in the quality of its public realm.

3. Urban design is the tool that gives physical expression to shared community values. 

4. Whether the citizenry recognizes it or not, we are a shining example of how important design and urbanism are in the creation of a vibrant city. 

5. Chattanooga’s renaissance can in part be tied to the level of cooperation and collaboration between the principals. Our situation was so dire that no one cared about who got credit as long as the job got done.

6. One of our current challenges is moving past style to focus on substance. 

7. We currently lack a forum for discourse and debate on issues of urbanism and design. 

8. Getting downtown to the next level is entirely dependent upon increasing downtown residential numbers.

9. Increasing those residential numbers is equal parts attraction and provision. After making the case for why living downtown makes sense, we need to provide the range of residential options and supportive services to make it a feasible option for a broad segment of the population.

10. As we work to attract new residents to downtown, we need to take care of the ones who are already here (think MLKing, Westside, Highland Park, Alton Park, Ridgedale, Avondale, Glenwood, Bushtown, Orchard Knob, Avondale)

11. Density is the key.

12. Miller Plaza district, the first step in our urban design renaissance, can still teach us things. 

13. Do you think the average Chattanoogan in 1980 could imagine that downtown’s biggest problem in 2013 would be finding places for everyone to park?

14. Twenty years on, the design of the Aquarium Plaza still holds up. 

15. While not perfect, the Southside is a remarkable success story.  

16. Despite 30 years of reinvestment and revitalization downtown, most of our urban neighborhoods have not proportionately participated.

17. Downtown is in dire need of a decent Chinese restaurant.

18. I am currently boycotting six restaurants in downtown Chattanooga as a result of their urban design decisions. Fortunately, I am not missing out as their food is shite anyway. 

19. The level of quality in design and construction of our buildings is not good enough.

20. The new pedestrian lights being installed throughout our downtown are generic, lack a connection to place, contribute to light pollution and glare, and fail in their primary purpose which is to provide even and consistent illumination at the pedestrian level.

21. The actions of politicians, design review boards, and citizens have conspired to turn (or perhaps keep?) portions of North Chattanooga into sub-urbs.

22. The US-27 project will destroy the character of downtown by markedly altering the perceived scale of the city and denuding our largest natural green element.

23. The US-27 project will undermine the quality of downtown by reinforcing the auto-centric nature of the public realm in that corridor.  

24. If US-27 goes through as planned, the idea of Westside as a vibrant and integral part of downtown is a dead. The more likely outcome is that the deal for the housing projects expire, those citizens will be relocated throughout the city, and the remaining land there will continue to be parceled out in a sub-urban style as befits the nature of 27 and Riverfront Parkway. 

25. The Westside should be the next catalyst for downtown. 

26. The Center City is realistically the next catalyst for downtown.

27. It hasn’t come up for a while, but speaking of potential catalysts: U.S. Pipe.

28. The city misses the vision of the former Design Studio. Can you imagine the city without the Aquarium, Miller Plaza, the Southside, the 21st Century Waterfront, and our public realm improvements? The original ideas for each of those came out of the Design Studio.

29. After extensive research on the subject, the case can be made that our former Design Studio was the most innovative, influential and effective such entity in the country.

30. That Design Studio, however, was an abject failure as a regulatory extension of government. (which ultimately led to its demise).

31. The success of the former design studio in its heyday was rooted in the fact that they were perceived as neutral brokers operating on behalf of the community.

32. Chattanooga has a strong group of competent urban designers.

33. Unfortunately, not all of our designers get it.

34. Unfortunately, not all of our non-designers get it.

35. A year later, people still talk to me about the Urban Design Challenge- proof that urban design matters to the citizenry.

36. The forthcoming downtown design guidelines will not raise the level of urban design quality in the city, but it should help prevent another Buffalo Wild Wings.

37. It feels like the C-7 guidelines are being held together with spit and bubble gum. 

38. The C-7 guidelines are worthless anyway. 

39. It is worth noting that while quantifiable goals are important, not every important thing is quantifiable.

40. 6 days until the first Birmingham City game!

41. 34 days until the first Alabama football game!

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