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Ask anyone anywhere in January 2020 what the year would hold, and no one would have predicted the current state of things. As we all try to navigate what seems like the end of the world as we know it, one can't help but wonder: What will the future look like? As a welcome distraction, Chatter's seasoned news reporters put their heads together to ponder and prognosticate. Here are our best guesses, in a manner of speaking.

 

TRANSPORTATION

TDOT officials announce that the I-24/I-75 work begun in 2019 will end in June. Work to tear it up and widen the road to handle the increased traffic will begin in July.

Daily commuters are infuriated when the light rail train from Atlanta to Chattanooga has its first breakdown, forcing thousands of workers to actually make a two-hour drive — in a car — to the Scenic City.

EPB utilizes 5G and new "triple gig" technology to unveil the world's first teleportation device. Beagle molecules are torn apart and then pieced together to transport the animal from EPB's downtown offices to a small fishing village near Baja, California. (Intended destination was the Tennessee Aquarium, but, hey — that's science!)

Volkswagen's new flying car, the Daedalus, is successfully launched after its first model, the Icarus, didn't survive emissions testing or consistent altitude requirements.

As part of its ongoing emissions settlement, VW gifts everyone in Chattanooga one of its electric flying vehicles, the Daedalus, and the city ultimately becomes the first in the world with zero emissions. Consequently, piles of electric scooters are transformed into public art.

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Getty Images / Photo Illustration by Matt McClane / In 2030, the Chatter staff predicts that EPB will utilize a new "triple gig" technology powered by 5G to unveil the world's first teleportation device. A beagle's molecules will be torn apart and then pieced together across the continent.

BUSINESS

Telework is the new normal for most Chattanooga office employees, and those meetings that should have been an email are now, in fact, emails.

After Zoom is investigated for selling users' data to China, Chattanooga's Gig Tank hosts a competition to create the next winning tele-meetings platform, and two local high schoolers become the next Bill Gates.

The Times Free Press releases its weekly, limited edition, premium "print edition" to paying subscribers. Collectors cheer as this vintage format becomes a rare, hot commodity. Old print editions from 2010-2020 that are properly sealed and stored in mint condition are sold for as much as $5,000 per issue.

Chattanooga's Chattem Inc. becomes a licensed manufacturer of Lysol following a sharp increase in (mis)use of the product.

Due to rising sea levels, Ironman moves its headquarters to Chattanooga, the first city in the world to have hosted five consecutive Ironman world championships.

In light of the city's transformation into the health nut capital of the world, the makers of Little Debbie snack cakes switch gears to produce energy bars and gels.

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Getty Images / Photo Illustration by Matt McClane / By 2030, the Chatter staff predicts that all food will be delivered directly to homes via drones.

Chattanooga grocery stores make the final transition to warehouses and distribution centers since all food now is either picked up or delivered directly to homes via store apps and drones. Thousands of local single Gen X senior citizen atheists lament the change, as church now becomes the only way to meet other same-age singles in real life.

A Kentucky distillery employee contracts COVID-25, forcing the government to temporarily shut down the bourbon industry in the Bluegrass State. This opens the door for Chattanooga Whiskey to challenge Jack Daniels for sippin' whiskey superiority to the degree that Chattanooga Whiskey becomes a Fortune 500 company.

Because of the collapse of the airline industry due to COVID-19, the cleaner, clearer air we all breathe causes Rock City to amend its claim that you can see seven states from there to being able to view 12. Just don't ask which 12.

EPB installs smart lights throughout the area that feature Wi-Fi, cameras and the ability to light up entire areas. Move is hailed as the future.

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Getty Images / The Chatter staff predicts that in 2030, smart lights will be installed throughout the Chattanooga area that feature Wi-Fi and cameras.

 

LIFESTYLE

Massive statue of Franklin McCallie is erected in Coolidge Park in honor of his dedication to racial equality.

Chattanooga's vape shops are now pot shops, as marijuana is legal in all 50 states.

St. John's, Alleia, Hennen's and other upscale area restaurants still see high profits from gourmet drive-thru windows.

The Southeastern U.S. is now considered the world's largest temperate rainforest, prompting residents of Seattle, Washington, to quip, "Have we moved to Chattanooga?" when it rains more than one day in a row there.

Staying in is the new norm, following a six-month frenzy post COVID-19 that saw the nation's birth rate skyrocket.

East Ridge and Red Bank become major population centers for members of Generation Z, as baby boomer deaths free-up cheap single-family homes in these Hamilton County municipalities for young families. Meanwhile, North Georgia is the new North Chattanooga in regards to the area's hippest neighborhood.

The bike buying craze that started during the first pandemic turns 80% of the local population into hobby cyclists, and bike riding is now taught in local elementary schools.

Dalton officially becomes a suburb of Atlanta and sets its sights on Cleveland and its water.

Chattanooga officials consider what to do with all of the empty downtown apartments as more people move to the country to enjoy rural living.

As River City looks for ways to bring people back to the downtown area, it proposes turning some vacated apartments into schools for pets, and a committee, chaired by a collie/labradoodle mix, is formed.

The American dream has evolved, shifting away from wealth and material goods and toward self-sustainable lifestyles. Vegetable gardens replace flowerbeds. The art of canning, pickling and fermenting is no longer just for homesteaders and hipsters. And backyard chickens are totally legal everywhere.

Money ceases to hold any real value and bartering becomes the "new" currency. "Materialism" in America is even more excessive than it was before the COVID-19 crisis.

When people speak in hushed tones about their "stash," they're referring to their hoard of toilet paper, a habit they can't seem to break.

Animal shelters around the area continue to see a surge in backyard chicken turnovers as people realize they actually have too little time to adequately care for them.

It is now a rite of passage — and high school graduation requirement — to complete a local marathon.

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Getty Images / Photo Illustration by Matt McClane / In 2030, the Chatter staff predicts that it will be a high school graduation requirement in Chattanooga to complete a marathon.

 

ENTERTAINMENT

The Halloween Industry Association announces that, for the 10th year in a row, hospital scrubs and masks are the top-selling superhero costume.

Don Lewis, Carole Baskin's husband, resurfaces — with a Netflix deal.

Music streaming services now offer a "hand-washing" playlist composed of 20-second compilations. Five percent of users subscribe.

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Getty Images / By 2030, the Chatter staff predicts the Halloween Industry Association will announce that for the 10th year in a row, Hospital scrubs and masks are the top-selling superhero costume.

The Moon River Festival spreads citywide and becomes one of the preeminent fall festivals in the United States. Besides music, it expands to include sports, such as a crew regatta and a triathlon.

Chattanooga FC and the Chattanooga Red Wolves merge to form the nation's most successful mid-market soccer powers, and the club's East Ridge stadium and surrounding commercial and residential properties become a model for other cities. Finley Stadium, the former home of CFC, is torn down to make way for a new urban high school after the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga disbands its football team.

The state-of-the-art baseball stadium built on the old Wheland site becomes public housing for professional athletes after continued public health threats diminish the sports industry.

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Getty Images / In 2030, Chatter staffers predict that Chattanooga FC and Chattanooga Red Wolves will merge to form the nation's most successful mid-market soccer organization.

 

GOVERNMENT

Overabundance of legal backyard chickens gives birth to new trend of black magic voodoo fortune telling practices using chicken bones and feathers. City leaders now regularly seek counsel from local voodoo priests on economic and community development projects.

Chattanooga literally becomes an island following continuing disagreements with neighboring governments concerning public health.

Weston Wamp, son of former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, becomes the first member of the millennial generation to be elected a U.S. senator from Tennessee. Wamp is part of a new centrist wing of the GOP that emerges after the party loses substantial power nationally for much of the 2020s.

The country is no longer really divided by political parties, but by which conspiracy theories one buys into. Chattanooga is now considered conservative.

 

EDUCATION

The city of Chattanooga forms its own city school system, returning to a separate city/county schools model that existed for much of the 20th century. The split results from years of friction between a more progressive city government and county government leaders committed to lower taxes.

After a boom of building student housing that threatens to completely take over the historic M.L. King district, and it still not being enough, UTC permanently transitions all classes online. The city scraps its long-delayed plans for a homeless shelter and instead integrates them into UTC's old housing — and classes.

Former Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, once a Baylor School tennis player, is now the private school's headmaster, replacing the long-retired Scott Wilson. Berke upsets his new employers by announcing that the annual Baylor-McCallie football game will return to Finley Stadium — at least when the Red Raiders are the home team — because "It's good for the city."

The forest kindergartens that began proliferating in the 2010s give rise to a new definition of "Ivy League."

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