A new park for Main Street

A new park for Main Street

July 17th, 2011 in Opinion Times

Chattanooga has an enviable national reputation for the public-private partnerships that have helped the city develop projects that have changed the face of the community and region. A $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, announced Tuesday, that will be used to create a new urban park on the Southside near downtown affirms those long-standing collaborative relationships.

The Main Terrain park will be built on a now vacant lot between Broad and Chestnut streets at West Main Street. It will feature interactive sculptures in a setting that encourages physical play and fitness. The NEA grant won't cover the project's entire cost. Additional funding will come from the Lyndhurst Foundation, which pledged a matching grant totaling $238,000, and from the city, which promised a modest $12,000.

The Lyndhurst grant, the city's participation and the involvement of other private and city agencies in planning and building the park are not a surprise. Rather, they are willing and welcome reaffirmation of the tradition and the value of the public-private partnerships so vital to community growth here.

Public Arts Chattanooga, Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga and PlayCore, an international outdoor equipment manufacturer with headquarters here, will play major roles in developing the park, which is expected to open next summer. Other groups and agencies will have parts to play, as well.

The park's location will mesh neatly with current development. Main Street from Central Avenue to Broad Street, and side streets to the north and the south of it, have become a popular destination for individuals and families looking for homes in an urban setting, and for a variety of business enterprises.

In addition to new and updated homes, condominiums and apartments, the area now features trendy restaurants, attractive shops and boutiques and storefront homes for entrepreneurs and service providers. The area, in fact, is rapidly becoming a model for mixed-use development in the heart of the city.

Building the park in the proposed location serves two purposes. It will provide a pleasant amenity for those who live and work in the area. Its design neatly meets the NEA criteria that grantees help improve the arts while "impacting the social, physical and economic characters of their neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions." Main Terrain easily will do so.

The park also should promote development and renewal in a part of the city - call it West of Broad - that is ripe for both. Finley Stadium, the First Tennessee Pavilion and some renovated commercial properties already anchor the area. Main Terrain should become a gateway to the area, provide an additional catalyst for growth and serve as a communal gathering place. All that, of course, meets the worthy goals of those involved in the park's planning and construction.