published Friday, June 6th, 2014

Thrive 2055 growth scenarios eyed in Chattanooga

Wade Swicord (left) speaks with John Bridger (center), Executive Director of Regional Planning Agency, and Stephen Stansbery (right), a member of Thrive 2055's consultant team, about Future D, which plans to build a freeway connecting major highways across the sixteen districts that Thrive 2055 is involved in.
Wade Swicord (left) speaks with John Bridger (center), Executive Director of Regional Planning Agency, and Stephen Stansbery (right), a member of Thrive 2055's consultant team, about Future D, which plans to build a freeway connecting major highways across the sixteen districts that Thrive 2055 is involved in.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

INPUT INCUBATORS

Upcoming Thrive 2055 meetings will take place from 6-8 p.m. local time:

* June 10: Dalton State College, Dalton, Ga.

* June 12: Kimball Civic Center, Kimball, Tenn.

* June 17: Goose Pond Colony, Scottsboro, Ala.

* June 19: Walker County Civic Center, Rock Spring, Ga.

* June 24: Graysville Community Room, Graysville, Tenn.

* July 8: Cleveland State Community College, Cleveland, Tenn.

Software developer Jason Denizac just moved to Chattanooga from Boise, Idaho, and he dropped in on a Thrive 2055 long-range planning session Thursday to gain a glimpse into the region's possible future.

"It's part of learning more about this place," said Denizac, one of about 75 people who took part in the 40-year planning initiative's latest effort to garner citizen input.

People viewed four potential growth scenarios for the 16-county Chattanooga region. Using electronic keypads, they voted on features they liked or didn't like.

They also had the chance to write down opinions on issues ranging from transportation, housing, and growth patterns to entrepreneurship, economic development and fiscal responsibility.

Six more such sessions are planned within the next five weeks in the three-state region. By this fall, officials hope to have strategic growth plans as they move into the third and final year of the Thrive 2055 process.

John Peckinpaugh of Hixson said he's concerned about the issue of property rights.

"I'm real concerned they'll trample on people's property rights and force people to pay for things they don't want," he said.

Peckinpaugh said, for example, he likes bicycles but doesn't necessarily want to pay for other people to use them in the region.

Justin Tirsun of Chattanooga said he expects to live here for the next two or three decades, and he's concerned about the area's natural beauty and resources and what's going to happen as the region grows.

"We need to do a better job of using the infrastructure we have instead of building new subdivisions," he said.

Joan McGarvey of Chattanooga said she wondered how the 16 counties will relate to each other under the Thrive 2055 plans, and how decisions will be made in the future.

"How will this impact the city?" she asked.

Thrive 2o55 planners said the region has grown from about 650,000 people to 1 million since 1970. Projections are that if just the same growth rate continues, the region could add another 400,000 people in 40 years.

The four potential growth scenarios people examined were:

* Business as usual - how the region would grow if current development trends were followed.

* I-75 manufacturing corridor - growth in advanced manufacturing particularly up the interstate with housing following that expansion.

* Growing from within - office and retail lead employment growth, more of the millennial generation are attracted and housing includes added urban and in-town options.

* Regional loop, local access - Better east-west transportation in the region connecting all of the area's interstate highways, opening the area up for more growth along that new highway.

Dan Jacobson, a BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee executive who's leading the planning effort's second year, said officials have gathered a lot of information about the area and the meetings are a chance for people to see how choices today could affect tomorrow.

"It's getting likes and dislikes," he said.

Bridgett Massengill, project manager for the initiative managed by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the data gained from the meetings are like building blocks.

"It's taking what we've learned and seeing what the sentiment is that has arisen," she said.

The Thrive 2055 growth initiative is crafting strategic plans in regional economic development and three other key areas -- education and workforce training, transportation and natural treasures.

Thrive 2055 has a $3 million budget. About $2.5 million has been contributed to the effort so far, with Chattanooga and Hamilton County each committing $500,000. Private area foundations have committed $1 million and area businesses another $540,000. Officials said more contributions are expected.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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