Wednesday, September 5, 2012
For River City Company President Kim White, the best thing about the Urban Design Challenge was the way it got everyday people excited about design and sparked discussions.
“I think the big thing is that it started a lot of great conversations and started something bubbling up at just about every site,” she said of the 10-month series that allowed local design firms the opportunity to design a development plan for currently underdeveloped sites around town. “The best thing about it was the fact that the community got so engaged and excited about planning and development. I think we’ll see things happen on each of these sites that was spurred by the challenge.”
Although no cash prizes were awarded to the winning teams to go and make their plans a reality, White said she expects that parts of different plans could become a reality in as soon as a few months.
Team Elemi’s winning plan, which proposed sweeping changes to the Fourth Street corridor that would make it more pedestrian-friendly and function as a gateway to the city, is one of the plans that lends itself toward incremental steps, White said. According to her, the fact that small projects could be done one at a time is likely part of the reason why the team’s design won.
“Look at the John Ross building between Broad and Market,” said Elemi team member Erik Meyers. “Tomorrow it could be a beautiful corporate headquarters that could set the stage for more development in the area.”
Even though the property sits in a prime downtown location, Meyers said it is underserved with its current use and many people don’t even notice that it’s there. He and White both said something may happen with that property in the near future.
The team also focused on making the corridor a gateway to the city so that people know they are truly entering Chattanooga when they arrive there, Meyers said.
“We’ve forgotten how to welcome people in a grand way,” he said. “Most people show up at a place that’s placeless. You could be in Chattanooga or Tuscaloosa or anywhere else.”
Another team with an emphasis on gateways won the People’s Choice award. The Broad Jump team focused on making the intersection of Broad and Main streets a gateway to the rest of the city.
That plan incorporated the addition of a new arena and the relocation of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant, which were both popular tenets of the plan — but are rather large-scale components — that drew multiple rounds of applause from audiences.
White said the community’s reaction to the series far exceeded River City Company’s expectations and the series’ popularity is definitely a marker of its success. She said she’s not sure whether there will be a second installment of the series.
“We don’t really know where it goes from here, but I think it’s obvious the city is hungry for being involved in planning for the city’s future,” she said.
For more information visit www.urbandesignchallenge.com.