Despite long months of little use, the Farmers’ Market is beginning to take on a new look and soon will be the scene of construction crews for two building projects.
Youth workers in the city’s summer jobs program already put on a coat of fresh paint on most of the 11th Street storefronts on the Farmer’s Market site over the past couple of months.
Construction will begin by the end of the month on a new family day center for Chattanooga’s Interfaith Homeless Network. By this fall, building work should begin on a new transit facility to train workers and house vehicles for the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency.
In the meantime, architect Andy Smith is volunteering his design skills to help develop a community design center for architectural students. The center, located in a renovated warehouse across from the Community Kitchen, is similar to Chattanooga’s original Urban Design Studio built in the 1980s in an unheated storefront on Vine Street.
“We find students often have better ideas under harsher conditions,” Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield quipped.
Mr. Smith also is drawing up preliminary plans for a new police substation, which Mr. Littlefield said he hopes to locate at 11th and Baldwin streets in a second term as mayor. City elections are next March.
“We want to again animate this place, which has such a long and rich history in our city,” said Mr. Smith, an educator, anthropologist and architect.
Mr. Smith is pushing an effort he calls “Common Ground” to unite the community and local architects and designers in restoring and reusing the Farmers’ Market. As a site where local fruits and vegetables have been sold for nearly a century, the area has long been a meeting place of people from all economic classes.
Mr. Smith envisions the old Farmers’ Market revived as a place where people might again come to buy locally grown vegetables, eat at a restaurant, shop in local stores and even provide some shelter or housing options.
Although homeless shelters so far have not come to the Farmers’ Market as Mr. Littlefield urged, nearly $2 million of new buildings should be added to the site in the next year or two.
The IHN is building a 5,000-square-foot center that will be five times the size of its current building across the street. IHN’s chairwoman, Bess Steverson, said the new center should help the nonprofit group expand its assistance to homeless families with additional training, playground and office space.
Chattanooga’s IHN, a part of the national Family Promise program, began 10 years ago and now includes 45 congregations that last year helped 45 families. Participating churches and synagogues provide homes and meals for the homeless families each night on a rotating basis.
Ms. Steverson said the group already has raised more than $300,000 toward the group’s $1 million goal to build its new complex and raise an endowment to support its future programs.
“Our new facility will provide us a classroom, playground, a study area for children and a kitchen and nap room to help us better care for families during the day and allow us to offer more education and counseling services,” she said.
Much of the expense of the new facility is coming from donated materials and labor, Ms. Steverson said. She hopes IHN can finish and begin using the new center in the first quarter of 2009.
At the rear of the Farmers’ Market site, the Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency plans to begin construction this fall on the first phase of a $1.5 million transit and training center to replace SETHRA’s current complex at the CARTA headquarters on Wilcox Boulevard.
SETHRA Executive Director Ray Evans said the federal share of the initial $620,000 for the project was recently approved to allow the agency to solicit proposals for the new 15,000-square-foot complex.
The transit facility will store up to 40 vehicles SETHRA uses for its services and he hopes the building will be finished next year.
Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...