Benjamin Franklin, United States founding father and sage, is quoted as saying, "When you're finished changing, you're finished."
That could apply to the city's riverfront, which began transitioning from next to nothing with the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium in 1992 to the completion of a $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Project during the mayoral administration of Bob Corker more than 15 years ago.
River City Co., the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group, wants to be sure there's no "finished" at the riverfront, so it commissioned a study — One Riverfront Chattanooga — to see what might be done. A planning firm, MKSK, was hired to conduct the planning process. On Wednesday, the public got an opportunity to weigh in.
Many of the comments in the meeting in one way or another involved transportation, whether by foot, personal vehicle or public transportation. If it's easier to get to the riverfront, it stands to reason more people will come.
Parking, especially during times of the year when more tourists are in the area, is difficult, many noted. Riverfront Parkway and Fourth Street are pedestrian impediments or, at the least, nuisances. Public transportation options could be enhanced.
Retail stores attractive both to residents who live near the river and to those who are visiting also were suggested.
Complicating the future is that the Chattanooga Lookouts, the city's minor league baseball team which plays at AT&T Field on nearby Hawk Hill, are in a state of flux. A study says minor league baseball needs to contract, and Chattanooga's team has been eyed as one of the teams that could be eliminated.
That potential emerged amid talk that has persisted for several years that a new stadium for the team could be built in a transformed South Broad district that once held U.S. Pipe and Wheland foundry.
Some say a new stadium at a new site would increase the odds the team could stay, but whether the team stays or goes, the current stadium location eventually would become prime real estate and be a part of any riverfront plan going forward.
But the Lookouts will remain at AT&T Field at least for the 2020 season and so will not figure in the initial riverfront plan that will be submitted this summer.
What does figure in the plan near the riverfront is a $1.5 million remake of First Street into what River City officials call "an art promenade experience" along First Street between Market and Cherry streets. Heavy landscaping and interactive art pieces will replace the "people mover" that was put in place as part of the early 2000s waterfront project, but which seemed to be out of commission more than it worked.
The idea of the people mover was to help people move up the hill from the aquarium plaza area to the Bluff View Arts District. That still will be the goal of the art installation, which has been dubbed "The Scramble."
The assemblage may not be the only scramble in the area if some participants at the meeting have their way, though. Among the suggestions Wednesday was a traffic scramble at the corner of Fourth and Market streets. What that involves is an all-way traffic signal stop that allows pedestrians to maneuver across either street or diagonally across the wide and busy intersection at the same time.
The other wide and busy impediment in the area is Riverfront Parkway, and suggestions were made that traffic there be restricted or that ways be found for pedestrians to avoid it.
Parking, the bete noire of downtown visitors, is not easily solved. But Accountability for Taxpayer Money organization founder Helen Burns Sharp had a few email suggestions for the group. Among those was to make to make drivers more aware of the two parking garages in the area and even to make them free on nights or the weekend, as Knoxville has done in some of its city-owned garages.
None of those suggestions on its own is likely to create a spike in tourism in the riverfront district. However, any thoughtful improvements to pedestrian mobility, safety and ease of parking will send a further signal that Chattanooga's downtown welcomes residents and visitors. That, in turn, will tell entrepreneurs and restaurateurs that the district is again a place in which to invest. That would be music to River City Co. officials' ears.