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People sit in Miller Park on Friday, June 9, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The park will be closing for extensive renovations.

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Miller Park to close July 10 for makeover

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Chattanooga will close 40-year-old Miller Park next month to re-create it.

When the downtown landmark reopens in July 2018, it will sit level with the street, connecting to Miller Plaza and other surroundings, according to redesign plans. Wide-open green space, anchored by an amphitheater along 10th Street and a rocky outcropping at the corner of M.L. King Boulevard and Georgia Avenue, will dominate the park.

In a recent meeting, city officials reviewed the makeover timeline with the Chattanooga City Council.

"We're looking at a 12-month project to completely overhaul the park as it is today to bring in a new park, a new feel, with a very high quality of components that we'll be building the park out of," Assistant City Engineer Dennis Malone said.

The park closes July 10 and reopens July 3, 2018, he said.

The Miller Park we know today will be buried under the redesigned park, which forms part of a larger $14 million district revamp involving M.L. King Boulevard and Patten Parkway. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has described the comprehensive makeover as a "once-in-a-generation investment" in the city's future.

The city will restrict traffic on M.L. King Boulevard between Market Street and Georgia Avenue over the fall and winter to relocate a major sewer line, create a tree-lined median and install pedestrian pavers between Miller Park and Miller Plaza, Malone said.

This means only one lane of travel for each direction between Oct. 15 and March 1.

Miller Park timeline

Miller Park closes July 10, reopens July 3, 2018

M. L. King Boulevard lane closures (between Market Street and Georgia Avenue) from Oct. 15 through March 1

 

The short stretch of road will be completely closed when contractors install the pedestrian pavers, Malone said. He said he expected the closure to last about 30 days and to take place toward the end of the roadwork phase.

The Chattanooga Department of Transportation has coordinated with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to prevent compounding lane restrictions and closures related to the Highway 27 exit work, Malone said. Fourth Street will remain open while the city works on the M.L. King Boulevard portion of the Miller Park District overhaul.

Jenny Park, strategic capital planner for the city, said the new park will include restrooms, a "critical feature" identified by every person who offered input during the public engagement process for the Miller Park redesign.

"Whether you are visiting the park on lunch break and maybe don't have time to go back to your office, or if you are a homeless person who does not have access to a clean restroom, the downtown public restroom is just a basic need the city felt was important to integrate into this park space," Park said.

Chattanooga recently accepted $1.5 million from the Benwood Foundation for the district makeover and enlisted River City Company, a private nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing downtown Chattanooga, to handle raising $7.5 million for the project.

Stacy Richardson, Berke's chief of staff, said the Miller Park District revamp is on track to receive $2 in private money for every $1 in public money.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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