More housing, a Volkswagen engineering center, green space, tech companies, and a Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark were among the ideas floated Thursday for the South Broad Street district.
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 people turned out at Calvary Chapel for the first of two sessions this week to help map the future of the 10-square-block section of the city.
Chattanooga City Councilman Erskine Oglesby Jr. said he can't wait to see what planners come back with on Sept. 11 when they offer what they call a framework for the area.
"This visioning will determine what the city's role is," he said.
Eric Myers of the Chattanooga Design Studio, which is overseeing the planning effort, told the gathering that it's no secret the Lookouts' owners believe the current stadium isn't still fit on its current site downtown and they want a new minor league ballpark to be built.
"There have been conversations," he said, citing talks between the ownership group and private landholders in the district. The owners of the 141-acre former Wheland/U.S Pipe site have said they'd welcome a stadium along with housing and retail space.
Christie Neidich, who has a building on South Broad Street, said whether she's for a stadium depends on who's paying for it. The current stadium near the riverfront downtown is fairly new, she said.
What she'd really like to see in the district is for it to be cleaned up, saying she's always picking up trash.
"Beautification more than anything," Neidich said.
Bo Oglesby, a business owner in the district, said he thinks a stadium is "a great idea as long as it doesn't sit empty 300 days out of the year."
He said he's interested in more residential space and amenities which would give the area a 24-hour feel.
Tom Trevor said he doesn't live in the district, but he'd like to see new housing, sidewalks, and green space to enhance the area's livability.
He said the area seems "almost disconnected" from downtown.
Mike Harrell of the nonprofit South Broad Redevelopment Group suggested bringing a possible Volks- wagen research and engineering center along with technology businesses to the area.
"We're close to the Innovation District," he said.
Harrell added that he'd like to live in the district.
"I'd like a live, work, play area," he said.
Helen Burns Sharp, founder of the Accountability for Taxpayer Money watchdog group, said she thinks the visioning process is "an exciting project." She said the area has a lot of potential, but didn't want to comment further Thursday.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke lauded the turnout at the meeting. He said that when the process is completed, he wants people to say that a vision was exercised and "we did it right."
The district is roughly bounded by the foundry property, Interstate 24, The Howard School and Chattanooga Creek.
Chattanooga attorney Mike Mallen, a partner in the group that owns the foundry parcel and the South Broad area's biggest stakeholder, has said that property is viewed as holding mixed-use development.
But he said Thursday that "I want to see, hear and know what our neighbors think about this."
Another public meeting is scheduled to discuss the future of the Southside area at 9-11 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.