David Wiles and wife Lea Anne were looking at moving to Chattanooga and they wanted to live downtown.
Wiles, a neurosurgeon, and his wife were living in Johnson City, Tennessee, on a 20-acre tract, but they had seen the revitalization of the Scenic City's central core.
"We wanted to be downtown in the middle of all the action," he says about the new townhouse they recently purchased on Walnut Street near the walking bridge.
Downtown has seen a flurry of new housing over the past decade, and more is on the way. Early in 2019, more than 1,500 new downtown housing units were either under construction or announced.
The units range from so-called "affordable" apartments to high-end units such as the Walnut Hill Townhomes where the Wileses purchased. Calvin Ball, vice president of Tower Construction Co., says he expects 11 new million-dollar units at Walnut Hill to be ready within 18 to 24 months.
"We feel this is the best location in downtown," says Ball, citing the area's proximity to restaurants and attractions along with its walkability.
Carlyn Voges, a broker for Mountain Girls at Keller Williams, says some people who want to live downtown these days are moving from a residence on one of the mountains around Chattanooga.
Also, she says, Chattanooga itself has become "pretty much a destination."
Wiles' wife grew up in Hixson about 30 years ago and has family in the area.
"She has come back and seen the revitalization of downtown," he says. "We're excited about what's going on there."
They rented a home for several months in the Cameron Harbor development, also downtown off of Riverfront Parkway, until they found their 3,900-square-foot townhouse at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.
"It's what we were looking for," Wiles says, noting they can walk from the river to the West End area near the new Westin Hotel.
Though it hasn't come without its challenges. The Wileses lived on a sizable parcel of property in Johnson City, so the move to a townhouse in downtown Chattanooga is a change.
"It's a huge change for us, but it's one we're looking forward to," Wiles says.
BY THE NUMBERS
WHO WE ARE
Downtown comprises two ZIP codes.
Median income: $13,204
Median age: 33.7
Native American: 0.4%
Two or more races: 1.6%
Median income: $36,587
Median age: 20.6
Native American: 0.1%
Two or more races: 1.2%
Source: 2017 American Community Survey
WHERE WE LIVE
Median sales price: $236,000 in 2018; $238,960 in 2017
New listings: 1,312 in 2018; 1,186 in 2017
Sales closed: 854 in 2018; 926 in 2017
Average rental price: $968 a month
Vacancy rate: 15.7 percent
» The neighborhood is dominated by large apartment buildings — about 85.8 percent of the residential real estate here is classified as such. The neighborhood has a high proportion of one-, two-, or no-bedroom real estate. The concentration of studios and other small living spaces is at near-record heights, representing 92.1 percent of the real estate downtown.
Source: Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors annual report, NeighborhoodScout
Battle Academy (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 3/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 3/5 in science
» Recognized as a Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America in 2006 & 2013, demand exceeds the number of spots available each year.
Tommie F. Brown Academy (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): Information unavailable
» In addition to the magnet school's normal classroom education, Brown — as well as Battle Academy — offers a pre-K program through UTC. The Children's Center serves children from 6 weeks of age through prekindergarten, offering a developmentally appropriate education for those enrolled as well as for students in the Early Childhood Education program in UTC's School of Education. Priority for enrollment is given to children of UTC faculty, staff and students.
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Lower (K-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 5/5 in math, 3/5 in science
» From CSAS principal Kelly Coffelt: "Our students learn to become readers, thinkers, speakers and writers through Socratic Seminar beginning in kindergarten. Our community is the most diverse in the county with students coming to us through a lottery from every ZIP code in Hamilton County."
Orchard Knob Middle
Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 3/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 5/5 in science
» One of 12 schools in the district's Opportunity Zone, OKMS is one of four pilots for a community school concept that launched in fall 2019 to bring even more resources and programs to address student and family needs. In 2018, students gained more hands-on opportunities thanks to one of the 16 Volkswagen eLabs in select schools across the district. Filled with digital fabrication tools, including automated manufacturing equipment, programmable microcomputers, renewable energy kits, 3-D printers, robotics and laser cutters, the labs are staffed by well-versed professionals in an overall effort to supply kids with skills directly relevant to the workforce.
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences Upper (6-12)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 5/5 in language arts, 5/5 in math, 4/5 in science
Average ACT score: 23.5 composite
» CSAS was named a 2018 Reward School, the top distinction a school can earn in Tennessee, for improving overall student academic achievement and student growth for all students and student groups. In 2018, about 20 percent of schools in the state — including both CSAS Upper and Lower — earned Reward status.
The Howard School
Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 3/5 in science
Average ACT score: 15 composite
» In an effort to get more local students career-ready, the district debuted Future Ready Institutes at high schools in 2018. The Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education through small, targeted learning communities within each high school. Howard is home to the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation, the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the Institute of Robotics and Welding and the Institute of Architecture and Construction. The school's principal, LeAndrea Ware — a Howard alumnus — was named Hamilton County's Principal of the Year for 2018. Around the same time, Ware also celebrated the groundbreaking of the school's new track and stadium, slated to be completed in time for a fall 2019 grand opening.
Source: 2018 State Report Card, HCDE, schools' websites
*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.
WHAT WE DO FOR FUN
Many of the attractions that draw tourists are located downtown, and they all draw locals as well.
» The Tennessee Aquarium hosts routine after-hours events: scavenger hunts, trivia nights and more, with hors d'oeuvres and alcohol served.
» In conjunction with select films, the IMAX 3D Theater presents special receptions, offering access to filmmakers and experts.
» The Hunter Museum of American Art welcomes locals to routine special events: Throwback Thursdays, offering free and discounted admission; Family Fun Days, Artful Yoga/Meditation, String Theory classical music performances, and more.
» The Chattanooga Zoo's calendar includes a host of special annual events, including Spirits in the Wild and Hug A Bunny Day.
Naturally, the downtown area is home to many restaurants. The following were rated "Best of the Best" by Chattanooga Times Free Press readers in the so-named 2018 readers' choice awards.
Best New Restaurant
Scottie's on the River
491 Riverfront Pkwy.; 423-269-7487
Best Romantic Restaurant (finalist)
Tony's Pasta Shop
212 High St.; 423-265-5033
193 Chestnut St.; 423-634-5160
Best Sandwich Shop
Best Carryout (finalist)
510 Broad St.; 423-266-0017
406A Broad St.; 423-266-5874
Best Fried Chicken
526 E. M.L. King Blvd.; 423-752-9198
901 Carter St.; 423-634-9191
Best Local Coffeeshop
204 High St.; 423-265-5033
302 W. Sixth St.; 423-309-5353
Chattanooga Public Library, Downtown Branch
1001 Broad St.; 423-643-7700
Monday-Thursday: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
» The flagship library branch offers much more than just books and audiobooks (which the library will special order by request). Cardholders can check out sewing machines and home improvement hand and power tools, there's a 3-D printer available for use, and a host of special programs — like the brand-new artist-in-residence program offering free art classes to children and adults. The program's first project, Silk & Shades at the Library, is being led by a local silk painting artist and runs May through July 2019. The library also hosts Tech Goes Home CHA community classes for adults, teaching how to find a job online, how to secure a professional email, how to create a custom resume and how to discover online city resources. Upon completion of 15 hours of training, participants have the option of purchasing a new Chromebook computer for $50 and can sign up for low-cost internet access.
Every Saturday from spring through September, the Chattanooga River Market welcomes shoppers to browse handmade works by local and regional artists — jewelry, photography, apparel, woodworks and much more — and/or participate in a free yoga class at 10 a.m. in Tennessee Aquarium Plaza. Market runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in season. 1 Broad St.
The Chattanooga City Council meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Council Building behind city hall, located at 1000 Lindsay St. The meeting is live-streamed, as are the preceding agenda session and department reports, which start at 3 p.m. View meetings at ustream.tv/channel/chattanooga-council-meeting. View agenda sessions at ustream.tv/channel/city-council-committee-meeting.
Recycling: The city offers free curbside recycling and provides containers for the single-stream service. Save for glass, most household items are accepted. Call 311 to see if your address lies within the pickup area.