Back on the Bike

Back for more urban design this week...

The urban design story of the year is probably Broad Street. In 2013, I was lead consultant for the Center City Plan (client: River City Company). The plan’s primary recommendation for transportation was to reconfigure Broad Street- moving from three car lanes in each direction to two car lanes with a dedicated bike lane. This was a slam dunk recommendation for many reasons- excess capacity, origins and destinations, adjacent residential developments, (the list goes on). I admit, however, that I wasn’t overly optimistic about implementation in the short term, primarily due to costs and secondarily due to the fact that consultants are always making bike-related recommendations that never make it (I’m man enough to admit that I’m jaded on multi-modal proposals). Additionally, River City Company, not the City of Chattanooga, commissioned the plan and they have no control over implementation.

Lo and behold, this fall the City of Chattanooga unveiled a design and built the bike lanes from M.L. King to the Aquarium (7 blocks). Our boy B. Bailey (CDOT Director, C.Rushing crony, honorable Phi, and all-around stand up guy) and his excellent team did a great job of design and implementation, and the work was completed this fall. Of course, the reward for a job well done is criticism. The main point of contention is that we lost a small number of on street parking spaces. This criticism reminds me of those who fought against the Aquarium (who will come to Chattanooga to see catfish in a tank?), and the conversion of M.L. King and McCallie to two-way (there will be wrecks and carnage all of the place), and perhaps more appropriately, the fiber optic network. All of those projects ended up being successful.

Over time the criticism will die down as people adjust. The design is well suited to traffic volumes, so this should cause no real issue in the operation of the street. The big question, however, is not if the design will simply do no harm, but will the design function as intended and improve the corridor (and indeed downtown and the broader city). The answer to that ultimately lies in what CDOT decides to do next. The Broad Street bike lanes in isolation will not do much. Those lanes as part of a larger network, however, will have the potential to make a tremendous positive impact on the city. While it’s fine for the City to take stock of what has transpired to this point, they need to take care to not lose momentum. Broad Street seems the most difficult portion of the downtown core network, now that it is finished they need to move on to the next success. If they stop now, they will have gone through the tough portion without realizing the full benefits that they have worked so hard to generate.

I urge the City to strengthen their resolve and continue the work they’ve started. Any time you take on a project there will be critics. If you're convinced that your work is righteous, then you need to enthusiastically pursue it. There's no reason not to continue building the downtown network (posthaste). Indeed, continuing that work is the only thing that will unlock the promise of what they've already worked hard to achieve.

On the road this week, we'll see what kind of impact that on next week's post.

This week’s listen: Obviously.


Back on Topic

Thanks to the Falcon’s cheerleaders for the get well card. It will occupy a privileged position right next to the signed card Nick Saban sent a couple of months ago. Speaking of Saban, that was a quite a performance by the Tide D line on Saturday. Our offense and our secondary still make me nervous though. Our path to glory, however, is now set before us. Bring it on.

The tagline of my blog is “On urban design in Chattanooga. (and the Big C)”. I’ve been heavy on the C and light on design over the past eight months. For the next couple of weeks I’m going to try to drop a few thoughts on our fair city (I also realize that many of you could not care less about design and rely on this to get an update on my health, so I’ll quickly address that as well.)

Health Update: I’m still alive. I still have stage four gall bladder cancer in the form of a big ol' tumor in my abdomen that has invaded my liver and colon. As I have not been informed otherwise, I’m apparently still on track to die sometime this spring. In the meantime, I’m still struggling to regain the weight I lost in September. It’s starting to weigh on me psychologically, as every time I look in the mirror I see a skeksi. It's a daily discouragement. Aside from that, however, I’m doing as well as can be expected.

This is what I see in the mirror every day.
(But oh, how I love that movie)

There is so much going on in downtown Chattanooga right now, it’s difficult to decide just where to dive in. I’ve decided to start by closing the loop on an old thread. This will give us food for thought today and help set the table for a couple of things I want to write about next week. For this to make sense, you need to go read something that I wrote three years ago.

The good lord has seen fit to let me live long enough to see Noodle's close. Several years ago I lamented the unfortunate design/reuse of the old barber college for a chain restaurant. From an economic standpoint, I hate to see downtown businesses not do well, but the market doesn’t lie. From an urban design standpoint, this was a sub-urban concept without the sub-urb. I would like to think that this is an example of the market telling us that in downtown, people are looking for authenticity both in an urban experience and in food. Thankfully, downtown still has a noodle option.

The empty building provides an opportunity to examine a fundamental question of urbanism. Is it better to reuse the existing building or demolish it and replace it with something denser? Recycling and reuse are great. Saving a building from the landfill can be considered green development. It’s also the easy route. On the other hand, density is one of the defining characteristics of a downtown. Developing a multi-story building on the site increases density, provides the opportunity for a mixture of uses, and maximizes the productivity of the land. It is also difficult and involves risk.

In the end, the market will ultimately determine this question of urbanism. The reality is that safe money will likely find another tenant and not take on the risk of trying to shoehorn a larger building onto the site. Incidentally, this is one of the tragedies of the Applebee’s next door. If those two sites were combined, it would be a prime opportunity to create a signature development for downtown. A quarter block on 4th Street between Market and Broad- oh, the possibilities! Alas, that opportunity does not exist…yet. On a related note- Don’t eat at Applebee’s.

Tune o' the week: We cannot cheat the reapers reap.


Ups and Downs

Sorry I missed last week. I actually had 95% of this thing written, I just couldn’t get it over the hump before the posting deadline. 

That’s the thing about liberals, give them a cent and they’ll take a dollar. No less than a month after I gave them a tip of the cap on Obamacare, I got letter informing me that my premium is being raised by forty percent (40%!). Almost Doubled! This equates to hundreds of dollars per month. Per month! Meaning my insurance premiums have tripled since the passage of the ACA. Of course, in my situation I’m not too fazed because the alternative is having no insurance and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars (what’s an extra four grand a year). Please note, however, that this premium hike isn't due to my condition, it's simply the way Obamacare works. (By the way, I didn’t get to keep the plan I was happy with. Period). Were I not sick, this would've made me really mad.

This highlights why I am so put off of politics. People Politicians tell flat out, bald-faced lies and are never held accountable- in fact, it is an accepted, if not expected behavior. This is corrupt, it sucks, and I have no interest in participating in it. I can’t really stomach any of our republicans and the presumptive democratic nominee is a liar who will do or say anything to get the office (remember this?) Oh, and by the way, you’re not a Southerner so just stop. And now their number two is touting 'Real Change"- I wonder if that is anything like the so-called "Change We Can Believe In". (Please: no hate mail from my liberal friends- ya’ll know I love you anyway).

As for me, the past couple of weeks have been up (work) and down (health). I’ve been able to spend a significant amount of time in the office and have accomplished plenty. The work I’m doing is great fun, and it takes my mind off of all of the other stuff. Unfortunately, from a health standpoint, I can’t seem to shake these weight issues. Of my potential ailments, this one is the most frustrating- it’s tough to generate energy and gain weight when you’re throwing up most of the food you eat. In fact, I lost so much weight in between office visits (another ten lbs) that the doctor took me off chemo last week. In any event, all I can do is keep trying, and with any luck I will be back in the chemo chair this week. (how's that for luck)

One bright note is that I've found myself drawn back into the kitchen. I sous vided (which is arguably not cooking) a rack of lamb on Friday night, and for Sunday dinner I broke out Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Julia’s outstanding cassoulet (perfect for the weather- but imperfectly executed by me). In each case, I ached for a glass of wine- unfortunately, that's one of life’s pleasures that I will never again enjoy (I'm experimenting with chocolate as a substitute- think wine, eat chocolate).

All is well in the sporting world. In what might be the last time I get to witness it, Bama beat Tennessee to extend the streak to nine in a row (I can die now). The boys are both doing well on their respective soccer teams. Although I make a point not to equate scoring with playing well, they have both made a habit of putting the ball in the back of the onion bag. In keeping with the theme of wearing green in honor of gall bladder cancer, the CFC u11 boys unveiled a third jersey for Halloween- a green Hulk version with “Rushing Strong”* emblazoned on the back. (They lost both games in the Hulk, so hopefully we not see them again for a while).

As a parting shot, I need your help. You may recall a post from a few weeks ago that highlighted the Rushing Cup- a golf tournament for my buddies and I. At that event the gentlemen pooled the money we would normally gamble, and have decided to donate it to charity. What I need your help with is identifying a proper charity. (I have overcome my initial desire to drive to Tunica and put it all on black to try to double our philanthropic pool). I would like to donate to a place that is small (where our donation will be meaningful), local (to Chattanooga), and preferably focused on cancer care or research (although this is somewhat negotiable). If you have any ideas of a worthy organization, please let me know.

Ya’ll have a great week and don’t forget that I love you.

*I have been a vocal opponent of putting “strong” on the end of the every cause or tragedy- by now it’s hollow and has pretty much lost all meaning. However, when it’s your name, and you know the sentiment from the parents and children is real, it causes one to have a different perspective. (But unless you are one of these, let’s please go easy on the Rushing Strong- and I say that with love in my heart).