District 6 summit focuses on untapped opportunity

Vehicles travel along Gunbarrel Road, which area officials say is congested, but not one of the most traveled roads in terms of traffic.

At a glance

District 6 consists of the following areas:The airportBrainerdBrainerd HillsConcordOoltewahSummitTyner

As the most diverse district in Chattanooga, District 6 is in a unique position to attract growth and development both commercially and residentially, according to city Councilwoman Carol Berz.

At the district's most recent summit, focused on "Economics Meets Lifestyle: Rethinking Sense of Place," attendees discussed how identifying those demographics can, in turn, highlight the needs of the area and should be used to attract businesses.

"Developers would do well to understand the needs for walking paths, for connections from one center to the next and sidewalks that actually go somewhere," said Jelena Butler, director and broker for SB Commercial Services. " The lifestyle demographics of residents are an important way to look at [overall] demographics."

But equally important to attracting the right business is finding the best space for area growth, Butler added.

For instance, she said, "When we think of busy roads in Chattanooga, one of the first we think of is Gunbarrel Road, but that is the difference between perception and reality. Gunbarrel Road is 10,000 vehicles per day or less, but you get stuck, you get clogged, and that doesn't happen on Brainerd Road."

Through initiatives such as the nonprofit Grassroots midTown, which received nonprofit status last year, Berz and midTown President Victoria Overholster say they hope to provide a direction to the growth in the Brainerd area.

"Clearly, we need to think differently than we did. We need to think about place differently," said Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Director John Bridger.

He said some options for the District 6 area include expanded walkways to increase connectivity between each of the communities within.

"We've seen some good changes start to happen, around Eastgate Mall, for example. So how do we build on that momentum?" he asked. " What if we had a dedicated bus lane along East Brainerd Road? Lee Highway? Landscaping and a multimodal use path? That's a different space."

While those changes take work and money, those are the changes Berz and the MidTown Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce say they want to see, and Bridger said they are possible. With the airport looking at new international flights and big businesses like Coca-Cola coming to the area, they are necessary changes to set the tone for the area, added Berz.

"Chattanooga is becoming an international city and we need to start behaving that way," she said.