Chattanooga announced its Innovation District in January 2015 after consulting national thought leaders and learning from the examples of other cities. Even so, imagination was required to determine how to proceed with making an innovation district a tangible economic asset. The same day the district was announced, The Enterprise Center issued a request for proposals to develop the Edney Innovation Center as a front door for the ID in a ten-story building on the corner of Market and 11th being vacated by TVA. A developer was selected in May, and, by October, initial occupancy of the Edney began.
By early 2017, just over a year after the opening of the Edney Innovation Center, it was clear that the Edney was proving important concepts behind the establishment of the ID. It was the district’s premier community collision space; the home to Co.Lab and its start-up and entrepreneurship scene; home to the area’s first co-working space, Society of Work; and home to a growing number of small early-stage companies. During this time other parts of the innovation ecosystem advanced, such as Lamp Post Group’s logistics incubator, Dynamo, and its development of the city’s first co-living project, The Tomorrow Building; the city’s $10 million redesign of Miller Park; the signing of an MOU between EPB and ORNL for research purposes; UTC’s growing success in attracting smart city research funds; and Tech Goes Home’s growth as a digital equity program. It was clear the timing was right to chart a course taking full advantage of this momentum to benefit the district and the city around it.
People and Programming
- Strong desire for diversity, inclusion and equity in the planning of the Innovation District – the ID should seek ways to benefit all of Chattanooga
- Better involvement with higher education and public education
- Embrace the value of the ML King District history and culture
- Provide opportunities for programming that brings all people together
- Increase public art and events, and showcase artists
- Make it easier for artists to share their work publicly
- Improve street connections and enhance pedestrian environment
- Improve the quality of physical assets
- Minimize the impact of cars and parking; encourage other modes
- of transportation: walk, bike, shuttle
- Improve the public realm and pedestrian experience
- Provide opportunities for a broad spectrum of workers and business owners: link training to job opportunities
- Develop a UTC presence downtown
- Use the Innovation District as a testbed
- Further integrate UTC research with City agencies and with industry, civic and nonprofit partners as part of a smart city strategy
- Create pathways for local businesses and entrepreneurs to connect with opportunities
- Enhance opportunities for minority owned businesses
- Increase access to investors and skilled labor
- Enhance workforce development and Industry-education partnerships
- Connect students and researchers to jobs and industry
Buildings and Physical Redevelopment
- Develop the district for today’s workers and residents
- Rethink the corporate office building - open floor plans; ground floor amenities/retail/food
- Provide a spectrum of housing in terms of design and affordability and a diversity of unit types to accommodate a variety of household sizes
- Connect UTC to downtown, in partnership with the Bessie Smith
- Cultural Center
- Address vacant lots and buildings
- Provide space for human connection - places for networking, collaboration, and serendipitous encounters
With funding from the City of Chattanooga, The Enterprise Center hired U3 Studio to guide the creation of a common ID vision and a plan to maximize the physical, economic and social redevelopment of the 140-acre district. A working group of representatives from the City of Chattanooga, UTC, River City Company, The Enterprise Center and the Chattanooga Design Studio helped advise the planning process.
After preliminary background analysis of the city and the district, U3 Studio consultants spent three days in the district from August 7-9 and again from August 28-29 to conduct more than 15 focus group meetings, individual meetings and a large public meeting at the Edney on August 7, 2017. Focus groups provided input on topics such as entrepreneurship, arts and culture, education, entertainment and events, economic development, public facilities, retail and housing uses, real estate development, diversity, higher education and research and technology.
Meetings conducted by members of the working group and conference calls with the consultant team provided additional information before the second round of meetings. An October 24-26 visit included a public input session on October 25 to review preliminary plans for the ID. Follow up meetings were held with various stakeholders in the coming months to pin down appropriate implementation steps and gauge stakeholders level of commitment.