Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Downtown Chattanooga Alliance Executive Director Steve Brookes talks with Ashland Fitten as she operates a litter vacuum as operations manager Randi Haynes looks on in downtown Chattanooga.

The Downtown Chattanooga Alliance will hire public relations firm Q Strategies to promote the group's work, support communications, and bolster alliance efforts to market downtown Chattanooga as a destination.

"They will help us with communications, anything pertinent to that, including the monthly newsletter, my executive director report, our annual report, and help us market and get the word out about events downtown," said Downtown Chattanooga Alliance Executive Director Steve Brookes. The agency will also help with the development of a crisis communications plan, he said.

The details of the contract haven't been finalized, but the alliance board voted at their monthly meeting Wednesday to go with Q Strategies after a request-for-proposal process that drew four submissions. Of those, only Q Strategies was inside the boundaries of the downtown Business Improvement District, and that was a point in their favor, Brookes said. Other public relations firms within the district that were invited to apply declined to participate, he said.

The costs of the communications and public relations support will either be $125 an hour or a flat fee of $2,940 a month, and he has work to do to determine which of those financial structures makes sense, Brookes added. The contract is expected to begin April 1, he said. The scope of work has yet to be finalized, said Kelly Allen, director at Q Strategies.

Properties within the roughly 50-block Business Improvement District zone pay special assessment fees of about $1 million a year collectively to fund improvements to the central city to make the area cleaner and safer, as well as to fund enhanced beautification and other special projects. The zone was established in 2019, prompting lawsuits and an ongoing impasse over the fees paid by nonprofit organizations within the district.

some text
Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Downtown Chattanooga Alliance executive director Steve Brookes.

(Read more: Nonprofit groups persist in seeking downtown Chattanooga fee waivers.)

At the alliance board meeting on Wednesday, members also discussed the launch of a new program called Cash for Trash that invites people experiencing homelessness inside the district to collect trash in exchange for cash cards they can spend at select downtown businesses.

Participants can turn in up to five bags of trash a day for $4 each and collect a card loaded with $20 to spend downtown, Brookes said. Similar programs in other communities benefit the district and the people who participate, he said.

"In my experience in the past, it's made the individuals feel really good about themselves," he said. "It plants the seeds in their head that I can work and don't mind doing this."

The alliance has worked with TransCard, which is headquartered in the district, to iron out the details of making the cards available, Brookes said.

Contact Mary Fortune at Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.