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.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Christian. I marvel everyday at how much Chattanooga has changed (for the better) and how much potential is still locked away in abandoned spaces and peoples' minds. We need a "Free the Urban Potential" campaign.