Chattanooga designers imagine revamped 4th Street area

Chattanooga designers imagine revamped 4th Street area

March 16th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Traffic flows on U.S. Highway 27 at the 4th Street Downtown exit in Chattanooga.

Photo by Allison Kwesell

Following hot on the heels of the Tennessee Department of Transportation's release of its plan for a new Fourth Street interchange, a group of urban designers on Thursday unveiled their own vision for the historic corridor.

The $60 million proposal for the Fourth Street corridor includes a pedestrian walkway from downtown to Cameron Hill as its centerpiece, a tree-lined promenade and new public spaces.

The presentation was the fourth of six entries in the Urban Design Challenge, a program sponsored by nonprofit developer River City Co.

Currently serving as what consultant Bob McNutt calls a "three-block de-acceleration lane for U.S. 27," the new vision for Fourth Street turns the focus from Hummer to human.

A $10 million walking bridge would connect the city to a planned multifamily residential development on the eastern slope of Cameron Hill, and would in turn allow nearly 5,000 employees at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee headquarters a 15-minute stroll to downtown, according to the plan.

The group of architects, planners and designers was highly critical of what they see as vehicular wasteland, which for many tourists is a first impression of the Scenic City.

"There are no human beings here outside of the ones driving vehicles," architect Eric Myers said during a presentation in the Majestic 12 movie theater that was as much history lesson as planning discussion. "The on-ramps must move back."

The area currently occupied by the expressway was actually a bustling neighborhood as recently as the 1950s, but was bulldozed to make way for the current cloverleaf interchange.

Myers' design also calls for new parking and a $15 million expansion to the Creative Discovery Museum, which would include a planetarium, as well as a welcome sign integrated into TDOT's planned retaining walls along U.S. 27.

"A community with its own font should have the ability to display a gateway sign," he said.

Half-used lots bordering the Majestic 12, John Ross building and Applebees would undergo a transformation into taller mixed-use buildings -- what Myers called the "highest and best use" for such a high-traffic area.

The River City Co. is already sending out a request for proposals on its L-shaped property on 4th Street, which wraps around the Majestic 12, said Kim White, president of the organization.

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