Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Chattanooga, Tennessee is a city rich in geological, ecological, and cultural history. It has transformed from a vital corridor for indigenous communities to its role as a crucial node in the American Civil War to a critical industrial hub of the Southeast. Much of this history happened on or along the banks of the Tennessee River. The beginning of the 21st century marked a new era of Chattanooga, one in which a revitalized series of riverfront parks, designed by Hargreaves (now Hargreaves Jones) would set the stage for an era of revitalized urban living, increased tourism, and more recreational use of the waterfront.
Building on this success, a holistic look at the city’s riverfront in 2021 (led by River City Company), called the ONE Riverfront Plan, identified opportunities to expand the life of the parks to better leverage the investment for broader community benefit.
Agency, along with team mates WMWA and Stantec, and collaborator Groundswell Design Group, is leading the design of the long-term improvements that builds on the history and design legacy while evolving the riverfront parks through the lens of today’s values. These include the need for multi-modal connectivity, environmental sustainability, and dynamic and active day-to-day programming. The summer-long effort – often described as a “sprint” – included a variety of focused conversations with area experts, a public open house and charrette, and deep engagement with a steering committee of civic leadership, under the guidance of River City Company, the City of Chattanooga, and the Chattanooga Design Studio.
The plan recommendations build on the community’s aspirations – providing more shade, more intimate and human-scaled spaces, enhanced programming, and more opportunities to connect with the City’s unique nature and culture along the river’s edge. It encourages the City to lean into the great biodiversity and rugged beauty of the region through plantings and restoration. It also outlines a series of new places – an architecturally-shaded porch with concessions and other comforts, a dynamic play slope, a memorial forest, discovery trail and art walk – that provide family-friendly and culturally-rich new uses.
This framework plan provides a series of strategies, expressed in both principle and place, that together achieve a more vital, connected, and sustainable riverfront. In concert with a series of immediate and tactical steps provided by Groundswell’s activation recommendations, the plan provides the client team – a partnership between River City Company, the City of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Design Studio – with the tools to sensitively and tangibly evolve the riverfront legacy for years to come!Project Images