By this time next week, two-thirds of the funding should be in place for a memorial to the five service members who died in the July 16, 2015, attacks on two Chattanooga military facilities.
Hamilton County commissioners and Chattanooga City Council members will vote next week whether each body should put in $250,000 for the Fallen Five memorial. Another $250,000 will be raised from the private sector.
The service members — Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, and Lance Cpl. Squire K. "Skip" Wells, all Marines, and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall J. Smith — were shot to death by a 24-year-old man who attacked a Lee Highway military recruiting center and the Navy Operational Support Center before Chattanooga police shot and killed him.
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said at Wednesday's commission agenda session the attacks and the tragic loss of life will "always be a historical event" in the community and the memorial could be a draw for people who want to pay their respects. He said Erlanger Health System is handling the private-sector fundraising.
Asked by Commissioner Tim Boyd how many visitors might come, Coppinger said there's no way to know, but he thinks the Convention and Visitors Bureau will likely spread the word about the memorial in its marketing materials.
Boyd quickly said maybe the CVB also could help pay for it. He recently floated a proposal to the city's arts and cultural leaders to lobby for a share of the county's 4 percent lodging tax to support creative programs. Boyd has argued the CVB can do its job of promoting Chattanooga and the county for less than the $8 million-plus it will receive this year from the lodging tax.facebook
"I would like to see CVB step up," he said.
Houston artists Shane Albritton and Norman Lee of Re:site Studio were chosen last month to design the memorial, which will be located along the Tennessee River by the Hubert Fry Fishing Center near the site of the second shooting. Chattanooga Public Art Director Katelyn Kirnie said their design, "Wreath of Honor," "stood out for its timeless design and uplifting spirit."
Kirnie said groundbreaking should happen on July 16 and the project will be dedicated on July 16, 2019.
Commissioners also are set to vote next week on a tax incentive to extend M.L. King Boulevard across Riverfront Parkway and create a welcoming gateway to the Tennessee Riverwalk.
Under the incentive, Cameron Harbor developer Evergreen Real Estate would build the new road section and deed it to the city. The $3.5 million construction loan would be repaid over a maximum of 15 years from the difference between the current value of property within the designated tax increment financing district and its value once the properties are built out. The total payoff of the loan would be around $5.7 million.
City council members passed the plan last week. Critics have questioned the use of tax increment financing, saying it's not appropriate for this project and will drive up the cost.
Commissioners had several questions Wednesday, including the potential property tax loss from around 40 apartments that would have been built in the area where the road will go, how much the value of surrounding property might grow and what will happen to West Ninth Avenue, the street that now runs from Riverfront Parkway to the Blue Goose Hollow trailhead at the Riverwalk.
Charles Wood, vice president for economic development at the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, promised to research the potential tax losses and gains. He reassured commissioners that the developer will pay school taxes and city and county debt service throughout the life of the TIF.
Charita Allen, deputy economic development administrator for Chattanooga, said West Ninth will remain, because it's a connector for industries that unload barges onto trucks for transport.
Commissioner Greg Beck wondered whether opening up the trailhead will cause security concerns for the people who live in the upscale development, but Evergreen president Aaron White said opening up the sight lines from M.L. King to the river and lighting up the area actually will make it safer.
Wood and Coppinger both emphasized the road extension has been in the city's plans for decades but development will take over the site if they don't approve the TIF.
"If we don't do this now we lose this property forever," Wood said.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.