“Livable cities are lovable. People like open spaces where they can gather and that provide more entertainment and options.”
From the seventh-floor balcony of the EPB building in downtown Chattanooga, city officials gave an update Wednesday on the $10.3 million district revamp and Miller Park project happening across the street set to open this summer.
Mayor Andy Berke touted the benefits the new park will bring to the city come mid-July when it opens to the public, weather permitting. The newly paved, one-block section of M.L. King Boulevard between Miller Park and Miller Plaza will reopen March 21 after being closed since November, with the delay blamed on bad weather and a misplaced sewer line.
The number of downtown residents has doubled in recent years, and an estimated 40,000 people pass by the plaza and park now each day, Berke said. The new park will feature a rocky outcropping at the corner of M.L. King Boulevard and Georgia Avenue, a multi-use amphitheater near East 10th Street and a garden path along the Market Street side.
"Livable cities are lovable," Berke said. "People like open spaces where they can gather and that provide more entertainment and options."
Workers were putting the final touches on the one-block section of M.L. King Boulevard on Wednesday, which now features interlocking pedestrian pavers. Commuters in the area aren't out of the woods yet, though. The city will close the block of Georgia Avenue from King and Patten Parkway next to finish the sewer line relocation, which should take about 30 days.
Private donations make up about 60 percent of the funding for the project, or a little over $6 million, and Amy Donahue with River City Co. — the private, nonprofit economic development organization tasked with raising the private funds — said they have about $300,000 left to raise.
"No one is concerned at all that the last small portion won't come in," she said.
The construction has been a eyesore for the area since the start of the project, but Berke and Donahue said they have been pleasantly surprised at how understanding most business owners have been about the project.
"There's mild heartburn when roads close," Donahue said. "But [owners] get that the project will bring in more activity."
When asked how the city will manage the homeless population that gathered at Miller Park before, Berke would not discuss any plans Wednesday of what would happen after the park opens. He said there will be more updates on that question in the coming weeks.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6651.