Group seeks new life for East Chattanooga's Glass Street

Group seeks new life for East Chattanooga's Glass Street

April 20th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Teal Thibaud, in charge of community outreach for the Glass House Collective, center, speaks about the collective's goal to revitalize Glass St. in East Chattanooga during a meeting with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise representatives.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

GLASS STREET LIVE BLOCK PARTY


The block party will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, rain or shine, at the intersection of North Chamberlain and Glass streets. Face painting, inflatables, bird house decorating, a walking tour and line dancing will be on tap in addition to:

9 a.m.: Volunteers meet for community cleanup at 2523 Glass St.

10 a.m.-noon: Touch-a-truck display at Hardy Elementary School, sponsored by City Councilman Peter Murphy

11:25 a.m.: Train rides begin at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

There are more empty buildings on East Chattanooga's Glass Street than anything else.

Next are clubs, a couple of hair salons or barbershops, corner markets and storefront churches. Of the five Chattanooga homicides so far this year, two were in East Chattanooga.

But three dreamers, all under age 35 and backed by money from the Lyndhurst Foundation, have set up an office in the community and believe they can make a difference.

On Saturday, the Glass House Collective, a revitalization organization formed under the charitable nonprofit Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, will host a communitywide block party. Glass Street Live happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the intersection of Glass Street and North Chamberlain Avenue.

If all goes as planned, the block party will start a community and commercial revitalization, first on Glass Street then throughout East Chattanooga, they say.

"We want to not have these buildings be vacant any more," said Teal Thibaud, 24, Glass House Collective partner and spokesman. The others are Director Katherine Currin, 28, and designer Garth Brown, 32.

East Chattanooga resident Ronald Gilbert, president of the Battery Heights Resident Association, said he is energized by the new activity.

"It's time to take a stand," Gilbert said. "We want to keep our neighborhood."

The Glass Street area was alive in the 1960s and '70s, he said, with a post office, a Honda motorcycle shop and a dry cleaner. But in recent decades, drivers only see clubs and people standing and drinking, and they don't want to stop, he said.

"It becomes depressing," said Gilbert. "But I look at other areas. I remember when Highland Park was a sore spot with prostitution, and they cleaned it up. And Main Street, back in the 1970s, prostitutes walked the streets. Now there are businesses and restaurants. So things are changing for the better."

Less than two weeks after Saturday's block party, Brown plans to begin building the Glass House Collective office that he designed at 2523 Glass St.

Thibaud said changes to the building will reflect revitalization that she hopes will attract more artists to the community.

Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise donated use of the vacant building, which housed the Hamilton National Trust and Savings Bank in the 1920s.

This week, CNE President and CEO David Johnson sat smiling in the Glass House office as the three visionaries talked of their plans.

"There is momentum," said Johnson. "Who knew they had an interest in Glass Street, and who knew that CNE owned a building on Glass Street? Things are just happening naturally."

By the end of the year, the group hopes to attract two more businesses, perhaps restaurants, to Glass Street, Currin said.

Because the street is a direct route to Volkswagen and Enterprise South industrial park, it attracts 10,000 to 11,000 motorists a day, she said, the same amount of traffic that hits the business area around the North Shore.

The Glass House group has sought grants, partnerships and volunteers to help in the community. They've gotten grants from CNE and the Lyndhurst, Benwood and Community foundations.

Gilbert said he thinks of his East Chattanooga Battery Heights community as the other Missionary Ridge.

"The same views they have on Missionary Ridge, we have on Battery Heights. All of the night lights of downtown, we have that."

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