No road will be built through Lincoln Park without input from residents of the neighborhood, Jeff Cannon, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's deputy chief of staff, said Tuesday.
"Let me be clear," he said. "We're not supportive of a five-lane road in this neighborhood. In fact, for Mayor Berke to support an extension of Central Avenue it would have to include quality of life aspects ... but most importantly, for Mayor Berke to support this project it would first have to include meaningful dialogue with residents."
Cannon was one of several speakers who spoke in favor of more residential input before any more steps are taken toward extending Central Avenue through Lincoln Park, a residential community just behind Erlanger hospital that includes the only park in the city that blacks could attend during segregation.
The city proposes to extend Central Avenue to cross Blackford Street and connect with Amnicola Highway.
Blythe Bailey, the city's Department of Transportation director, asked that the city's initial request for federal funds for the extension be amended to include a plan for community outreach and more residential input. The amendment also states the city will report to the transportation board about its efforts to get residential input before getting the money. No funds will be available before Oct. 1, 2016.
Several Lincoln Park residents, Chattanooga Organized for Action representatives and supporters sat on one row in a room at the Development Resource Center, where the Transportation Planning Organization meeting was held.
Supporters included Quenston Coleman, who applauded Berke's administration for calling for more discussion, but he asked for as much support when roads are proposed to go through the Alton Park community.
Tiffany Rankin and Minnie Darden nodded in approval as Cannon spoke.
"We're not just a pushover," said Rankin, a Lincoln Park resident who came to the meeting with signs advocating "Historical Preservation Lincoln Park."
Darden had a sign stating "Stand-up for Lincoln Park."
"They just can't take everything all of the time," she said.
Residents said the community once was twice as large as it is now and it had an Olympics-size pool.
State Rep. JoAnne Favors called the meeting a victory.
"It allows an opportunity for further study and engagement of the community," she said.
But the extension isn't off the table.
Cannon said a study is being conducted of at least 15 proposed routes and road types.
"I'd like to add that the Central Avenue extension could be a great thing for the Lincoln Park park, but only if it's done correctly and only if input from the neighborhood is part of the process."
Soddy-Daisy City Manager Hardie Stulce also noted that the city, if it chooses, has power to allocate the funding to a different project.
"My comment is this. The funds were requested by Chattanooga. Chattanooga present, the new administration, has the authority to withdraw the request or amend the resolution."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-757-6431.