It is no exaggeration to say that the magnificent development of Chattanooga’s waterfront has been a key part of the city’s economic growth in recent years. Tourists flock to the eye-catching natural and man-made attractions near the scenic Tennessee River, bringing in tax revenue and making the city more appealing to potential businesses.
So there is general agreement that the $120 million 21st Century Waterfront project — which included, among other things, the rebuilding of Ross’s Landing and the construction of a water feature called the Passage, beside the Tennessee Aquarium — was a boon to the city.
But some serious problems have plagued areas of the project since it was completed in 2005. For example, an inspection found electrical wiring that was not made to be in or near water, actually was under the water of the Passage.
“The above wiring condition is one of the most potentially dangerous that I’ve seen of this type in years,” the city inspector wrote.
The Passage had to be closed two years for repairs. The city has spent $1.5 million repairing the Passage and may have to spend an additional $1 million fixing concrete problems along the waterfront.
What makes the issue more troubling is that it appears the city had an early understanding of some of the problems, yet less costly repairs proposed by the architect in 2005 were apparently rejected. And for reasons that are unclear, the city lacks any record of code inspections or oversight reports during the period of construction, 2003-05.
In 2009, Chattanooga sued, seeking to recover its repair costs. But recently, a Circuit Court judge threw out the case, saying the city had waited too long and that the statute of limitations had expired. The city plans to appeal, saying it did not learn of the problems until 2007.
With millions of dollars at stake, the claims and counterclaims are unfortunately likely to continue.
We hope that the burden of paying for the expensive repairs will ultimately be borne by the responsible parties.
Meanwhile, fortunately, countless tourists will no doubt continue to enjoy our beautiful waterfront.