And in Local News...

This past week the local media treated us to a veritable cornucopia of urban design related stories. I must pile on...

A couple of weeks ago the city started the process of having the Delta Queen moved from its mooring in front of Coolidge Park. This was a good and long overdue move. On Tuesday, however, we found that the city has made some form of concession that would allow it stay. C’mon man. That morning I great misfortune of having the dial settle on talk radio. The two gentlemen hosting the show were doing their job (i.e. inciting the masses to rise up against the great injustice of the city). I heard comments that made my ears bleed. Here are mine: a) The boat is a private use on what should be a very public place. One of the basic tenets of the community’s work for the past 30 years is that the river is a community asset and public access to the water should trump private concerns; b) Apparently the market doesn’t think the floating hotel is a viable concept. If it was a wildly successful business they wouldn’t be dealing with folks in Cincy to sell it. Beside that, why does the public have to shoulder the burden of a private enterprise?;  c) The boat would be better served paddling up and down a river than being permanently moored (at what point does a vessel that does not sail cease to become a boat and become something that merely floats?); and d) The boat has nothing to do with Chattanooga. It’s not even Southern- it was designed and built to operate in California.

My take: I think we should throw a party to celebrate the history of the Southern Belle, say bon voyage, and wish it well in its future endeavors elsewhere.

The Pulse just published a piece regarding the Southside storage units that I wrote about a few weeks ago. I think the article and those quoted in it have it mostly right. I will say again, however, that advocating for design review at every turn is not the right answer. At one point our community had the ability to establish vision and engage in collaborative dialogue in a way that achieved win/win situations. Design guidelines are more about subjugating the developer to the will of a watered-down set of standards. It is prescription- there is no dialogue, there is no collaboration, there is no working together to make a project better. I have no idea whether or not the storage unit project will be an asset to the community. We shall, however, find out soon, it’s out of the ground.

My take: The storage unit is a symptom, not the problem.

The Mission project at Main and Market is back. It appears that this time it is for real. 60 housing units and 10,000sf of retail should help Main Street get over the hump. This may be the only place in Chattanooga where someone could live, work, walk kids to school, have a beer, and go grocery shopping within a 1.5-block radius. That’s urbanism my friends. I know some folks are bit uptight due to the developer’s design track record, but considering that Elemi is the architect and RCC maintains a level of design control, I’m not too worried. In fact, I have heard that said developer is doing a really good on several current projects.

My take: Just what we need and I’m sure it will be a great project.

On the other hand, there is this. I can’t figure it out- it’s clearly bad, the community is up in arms, there appeared to be a way to get it fixed, but it actually got worse. Their comment that this is somehow based on historic Victorian-era housing in the neighborhood is silly. First, Victorian houses weren’t 4 stories tall and a block long. Secondly, none of those houses incorporated each and every color available at the store.

My take: I’ll be frank... it’s turrible.

It appears that we are getting another round of riverfront housing in the form of 270 units on the downtown side of the river from Cameron Harbor down to MLKing. I haven’t seen any design work for the project, so I can’t really offer a critique. By my calculations, however, they're looking over 20 dwellings per acre, which is not bad. From a design standpoint, I suppose it could go one of two ways. This could end up being the fulfillment of the 21st Century Waterfront Plan that called for mixed-use (but primarily residential) development in the area that stressed the public nature of the river’s edge. On the other hand, the article indicates that single-family homes will be located closest to the water. If this layout privatizes the waters edge then the community loses. There was a quote from the developer about extending the riverwalk through his property- this is good, but hopefully they will be mindful of the “river” in “riverwalk”.

My take: Without having seen it, I can’t say. I suspect that my opinion will be largely influenced by how they handle to river’s edge.

Last, but certainly not least is the announcement of River City Company’s Center City Plan. This is of particular interest to me, as yours truly is riding herd for the consultant team. I am very excited about the team, the process and the product. Please make sure you come out to the charrette on October 7th (5:30 at Bessie Smith), and give your thoughts on the future of the center of downtown.

My take: Stay tuned!

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