Chattanooga neighborhood revitalization is goal for proposed fund

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke (Staff file photo by Tim Barber)

Trying to build on neighborhood strengths, Chattanooga planners are to work with a new city proposal aimed at using Alstom tax break settlement proceeds to sharpen revitalization efforts.

"We're being more strategic," said John Bridger, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, adding that the target is to "leverage opportunities to create more vibrant community centers."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has proposed putting $1 million into a new Neighborhood Reinvestment Fund in the fiscal year 2019 budget. That amount could grow to $1.5 million the next year and then $2 million in two years.

Crafting a blueprint

› What: City of Chattanooga, Regional Planning Agency, Area 3 neighborhood groups hold kick-off meeting for new multi-year plan› Boundary: Part of city bordered by South Chickamauga Creek, Missionary Ridge, Interstate 24, and the Tennessee River downtown› When: Saturday, June 23, noon-2 p.m.› Where: Carver YFD Center, 600 N. Orchard Knob Ave.› Contact: Justin Tirsun, RSVP at 643-5948. A light lunch will be provided.

"Every neighborhood is distinctive," the mayor said. "We want to be able to build on those strengths. What we want to do is have the fund to respond quickly to those neighborhood comments [in RPA plans] and make them happen."

The source of the funds would be money from GE Power's settlement with Chattanooga and Hamilton County related to tax breaks earlier awarded to the former Alstom manufacturing operations off Riverfront Parkway.

GE, which had bought the Alstom site and then shut it down, agreed to pay $3.3 million to the city and $2.7 million to the county, according to the settlement.

A new long-range area blueprint the planning agency is undertaking starting later this month for part of the city will help identify how to use some of the money in the proposed fund, officials said.

The area in that plan will include neighborhoods bordered by South Chickamauga Creek, Missionary Ridge, Interstate 24, and the Tennessee River downtown.

Some neighborhoods are Avondale, Battery Heights, Boyce Station, Bushtown, Churchville, Ferger Place, Gaylan Heights, Glass Farms, Glenwood, Highland Park, Missionary Ridge, Oak Grove, Orchard Knob, Ridgedale, Riverside, Waterhaven, and Wheeler Avenue.

"It's pretty big," Bridger said. "It's a bunch of neighborhoods."

Bridger said the planning process will look at the creation of "unique destinations" in neighborhoods, such as already exist on Glass Street.

Glass Street thrived a century ago, but the area eventually became little more than a route to connect downtown to the Enterprise South industrial park. Today, that's changing because of a resurgence in community support.

Berke said that while downtown Chattanooga has attracted lots of capital, the aim is to balance that with progress and meaningful investment in neighborhoods across the city.

"The area plans by the planning agency will help us find those opportunities," the mayor said. "We'll use the fund to make them happen."

photo John Bridger, left, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency executive director

The idea is to look at what the neighborhoods say they want, Berke said. That might include items such as sidewalks, infrastructure, lighting or other things, he said.

Berke said city officials are looking at what comes out of the newer planning processes by the planning agency, but there may be relevant items in existing plans.

"We'll try to figure out how best to use the dollars where it will have the most impact," he said. Plans are to take input from city council and community members as well, Berke said.

Bridger said a couple of key differences in the way the planning agency will conduct its plans moving ahead is that it will focus on what he called place-making. In the past, he said, districts were defined based on use alone. The new plans will involve more thinking about how uses work together to create places, Bridger said.

The second element is strategically putting capital improvements in the plan rather than simply "a wish list," he said. Such wish lists aren't helpful for elected officials nor decision makers, Bridger said.

The Reinvestment Fund still must be included in the city's final budget.

According to the city, the first reading of the budget will be June 19, with the expectation the city council will vote on it the next Tuesday, June 26.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.