Role of the Downtown
Chattanooga’s downtown continues to hold its place as the city and county’s major economic driver. In a compact footprint it contains the central business district, centers of government, major office employers, primary cultural institutions and tourism district, and it also benefits from its proximity to UTC and Erlanger Medical Center. Transportation connections are good and the area is ringed by residential neighborhoods and regional parks. All this provides the Innovation District with access to the city’s most valuable urban resources including its talent base.
Of the 14,000 people who work in the Innovation District, 19% work in professional, scientific and technical service fields, while the majority of workers hold public sector, finance, insurance, utilities and service jobs.
Multiple modes of transportation, including buses, electric shuttles, bicycles, an electric car share program and pedestrian oriented streets, converge in the heart of the ID. These modes help connect workers, residents and visitors around downtown and beyond. For public transit users, this is the major connecting point within the city, and future investments in transportation infrastructure and public access should consider how the ID could be a test bed for new mobility technologies and services.
Patterns of Use
The Innovation District has a healthy mix of civic and cultural institutions and contains major innovation economy generators including the Edney Innovation Center, Co.Lab, EPB, the Public Library, the Chamber of Commerce and Causeway. The ID is home to a diverse range of uses: commercial, retail, community, cultural, civic and housing. There are several parking structures, as well as surface lots and multiple transportation modes. A cluster of economic and social innovation assets have emerged organically within the mixed-use setting, providing shared services, collaborative space and amenities to the district’s community of new economy workers.
The City, River City Company and the Chattanooga Design Studio are focused on improving public and private development and activating public spaces, streets and alleys in downtown. There is significant current and proposed programming and activation of the public realm in the ID with art installations, social and networking activities and public space and pedestrian improvements. Of the area’s four major public spaces—Miller Park, Miller Plaza, Patten Parkway and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center Lawn—two will have had major reconstruction by 2019, and new community programming is being planned for the others.