Patten Parkway proposal envisions pedestrian square and mixed use

photo Team "Method E5" created a new look for Patten Parkway for River City Co.'s Urban Design Challenge, a contest that seeks to improve parts of the city which have fallen victim to decay. The team, led by Tom Bartoo and including Che Fortaleza, Frank Greene and John Henry, seek to integrate the street's history as a food market into a design that extends the parkway east to Houston Street.

Patten Parkway soon may boast an eye-catching entrance, continuous storefronts and extended grand promenade if civic planners find a receptive ear for their redesign of the historic boulevard.

The plan unveiled Thursday at the nearby Bessie Smith Cultural Center extends the memorial parkway east almost to Houston Street with shopping, dining and residential mixed-use buildings rising up around it.

The Volunteer Garage would lose a few spaces to storefronts on both Patten Parkway and M.L. King Boulevard. But a new "sustainable" parking garage on the east side of the development would more than make up the difference.

Condos constructed from cargo containers would rise northward along the steeply graded site, which would culminate in a pedestrian square that designers say could make a natural music venue.

A team of architects and urban designers created the updated look for the historic street in response to a challenge by River City Co., a nonprofit development group that wants to breathe new life into Chattanooga's old places.

"This is a great time to explore the untapped potential of the Patten Parkway area," said Kim White, president of the group sponsoring a year-long Urban Design Challenge to pour life into some of the Scenic City's more decrepit blocks.

At one time the parkway was the site of the first Coca-Cola bottling plant, and before that it contained Chattanooga's most important food market - but both of those structures later were razed.

Even with the boost brought by recent arrival The Honest Pint, the parkway can at times appear lifeless and dull, with little street or pedestrian traffic, urban designer Frank Greene said.

"There's not really much it to recommend it," Greene said. "On any given Friday night, of the couple thousand people at Nightfall, probably half of them have no idea Patten Parkway is there."

Still, though the split road is just a few hundred feet in length, it is a stone's throw from the heart of downtown and serves as an important link between the city's commercial district and the nearby university.

"They've presented a really practical development which actually looks like something you could cobble together with some investors," architect David Barlew said.

Mayor Ron Littlefield, who worked out of Patten Parkway during his tenure at Chattanooga Venture, remembers "having parties on the parkway," he said Thursday.

"It's a place that can be very lively, that could be the outdoor Tivoli," he said. "We've neglected it long enough."

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