Despite the quaint neighborhoods and historic houses, the overall Brainerd community remains the kind of concrete jungle that began taking over the country several decades ago.
But that could soon change.
A proposed zoning overlay district that encompasses Brainerd from Missionary Ridge to East Brainerd Road to Interstate 75 would mandate trees along the street, sidewalks, and buildings built closer to the street with parking hidden behind for all new development. The overlay ordinance is expected to come before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission in November for recommendation, before going to the City Council in December for approval.
If approved, it would be the first overlay of its kind in the city, said Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger, noting that cases are undertaken by request, in this case by request of Councilwoman Carol Berz.
"The policies IHOP followed are meant to be a model," he said in reference to the new eatery on Brainerd Road near Brainerd Village.
At the same time, the city is contracting Arcadis Engineering to design a water plan for the area that incorporates natural surfaces and water collection methods. The holistic approach is not only attractive for dealing with environmental issues like flooding and stormwater runoff, but also for improving the area's aesthetic.
"The word is overworked sometimes, but transformation; that's what you're going to see," said Arcadis stormwater management program leader Pete Yakimowich.
In his renderings, the sky is filled with the lush canopy of trees, not utility poles and lines. Streets are not the main focus; sidewalks lined with inviting greenery are, and people are using them. Connected green spaces throughout the area draw people in and water through its natural cycle.
"We're hoping Brainerd can be a Mayberry," said city water quality supervisor Don Green.
The project, which is currently only funded for the first phase to develop the necessary infrastructure, will likely become a guide for the rest of the city, as well as other places around the state and even country, Berz said.
A preliminary project along Brainerd Road from East Brainerd to Moore roads will serve as a showcase of the possibilities. It will then be up to stakeholders in the area to pick up the concept and run with it.
"Stormwater management is not going to be looked at as something you have to do, but something you want to do to improve the property and its value," Yakimowich said, adding that the natural components of the approach will come with low maintenance requirements in addition to other cost benefits.
An initial meeting with stakeholders including Eastgate Town Center, Luken Holdings (which owns the Belvoir Center shopping strip), Brainerd Village, the Brainerd Library and Mission, the city, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport and Tennessee Department of Transportation showed them all on board, according to Berz.