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Work was underway in May on the ending point of the Tennessee Riverwalk that passes through some of Chattanooga's oldest industrial property on the Southside.

If you go

What: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for new section of the Tennessee Riverwalk

When: Friday morning at 11 a.m., with festivities starting at 9:45 a.m. and lasting through Saturday evening

Where: Blue Goose Hollow trailhead, just south of Cameron Harbor off West Ninth Avenue

More: See ChattanoogaNow in Thursday’s Times Free Press for more on the grand opening festivities.

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Tennessee Riverwalk expansion

Drive along St. Elmo Avenue in the South Broad district and you'll be greeted by signs advertising a new residential development called One Hundred at South Broad.

They entice potential homebuyers with messages about the allure of living near the Tennessee Riverwalk.

"In real estate, everyone talks about the Riverwalk, because that's what our clients talk about," Jeremy Fitzsimmons said.

Fitzsimmons is a lead agent on the One Hundred at South Broad development for Keller Williams Realty, and he is not alone in capitalizing on the excitement generated by the simple concept of a concrete path for pedestrians and cyclists.

A new, $16 million, 3-mile section of the Tennessee Riverwalk that will stretch from Ross's Landing to Middle Street is opening Friday, and it's bringing energy and investment to a South Broad District that, for years, has lived in the shadows of the booming Southside and eclectic St. Elmo neighborhoods.

"You see what it means, because you see what's happening on Broad Street," said Mike Mallen, a partner in the business development project at the former U.S. Pipe-Wheland Foundry site along the new Riverwalk section. "I think the extension of the Riverwalk is the engine that's creating all these pockets of growth that you're seeing."

From the $100 million Cameron Harbor development at the north end of the new section to the One Hundred at South Broad development and places in between, the Riverwalk is serving as a catalyst to revitalize an area steeped in the city's industrial heritage.

It's a continuation of the existing 10 miles of Riverwalk that stretch from downtown to the Chickamauga Dam and the latest link in a growing network of urban trails that is helping Chattanooga earn accolades for its quality of life attributes.

A connection between the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the Riverwalk opened earlier this year. Soon, the Riverwalk will extend to the foot of Lookout Mountain in St. Elmo, and city officials are also eyeing a multi-use path that would connect the Alton Park neighborhood to the Riverwalk.

In the next several years, the Riverwalk and South Chickamauga Creek Greenway will combine to create a 270-degree arc connecting St. Elmo to Camp Jordan in East Ridge with other trails, jutting off along the way to connect more neighborhoods to the pathway network.

It's also expected to bolster the Riverwalk's status as an accessible recreation opportunity for tourists.

"When you can link together 13 miles from the dam to the foot of Lookout Mountain, boy, you talk about a competitive advantage over other communities," Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau president Bob Doak said. "With that, we'll continue to bring more and more visitors, conventioneers and sporting events into this town."

The success of the first portion of the Riverwalk played a key role in the acquisition of the parcels of land needed to complete the new three-mile section.

While some local landowners along the corridor, such as Mallen's Perimeter Properties group, understood the benefits and were willing to donate land for the Riverwalk, other out-of-town owners required more convincing.

Trust for Public Land State Director Rick Wood credited the existing portion of the Riverwalk for proving the merits of the project to businesses like PSC Metals that owned land needed for the new corridor.

"It was a challenge, that's for sure," Wood said. "In this kind of work, especially with the Riverwalk, you've got to keep your eye on the goal, because it takes persistence, and it takes vision, as well."

The new path will be 12 feet wide, except at a few "pinch points" in active industrial areas, said John Brown, project manager for design and a senior landscape architect with the firm Barge Waggoner Sumner & Cannon.

That's 2 feet wider than much of the existing section, and a decision that came through a public input process that found users desired a wider corridor, Brown said.

"I've been pleased with how it's turned out," he said. "And I hope everyone else is as well."

Some already are. Fitzsimmons said the first phase of homes at One Hundred at South Broad are sold out.

"Every buyer here is drawn to having that easy access to the Riverwalk, to be able to be biking downtown in less than 20 minutes, connecting to St. Elmo in the master plan. It's just a totally different option than you get in other parts of the city."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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