Urban Design Challenge

Proposal to remove chicken plant included in new urban plan

The “Broad Jump” plan of the Urban Design Challenge includes a circular urban plaza at the intersection of Main and Broad streets to create a new, art-centric gateway. The plan also proposed the removal of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken plant to the south and building a new indoor sports arena next to Finley Stadium. (Artist rendering: Contributed)

The sixth and final presentation in River City Company’s yearlong Urban Design Challenge put forth an ambitious vision for the Main and Broad streets area Tuesday evening, including a proposal to remove the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant, install a light rail system and build a 15,000-seat indoor sports arena.

The proposal was created by a team of architects from three local firms who came together to create a fictional plan for the site as part of the design challenge. The challenge, which began last year, tasked six urban design teams to develop concept plans for key downtown sites.

The project area includes Main Street from the Highway 27 connection on the west to the intersection with Broad Street, then south on Chestnut Street over to Finley Stadium.

The team’s total concept is based on the idea of a “Broad jump” from east to west, citing several challenges that have stalled the recent East Main Street revitalization from making the jump across Broad Street and continuing west.

“Our neighborhood’s challenges include high-speed traffic, the chicken plant, poor quality and disconnected streets, a general lack of urban fabric, and the need for an economic engine,” said the project summary.

Each of those challenges is defined as a contributing factor to why the celebrated Southside revitalization stops at Broad Street.

The plan suggests the creation of a new indoor sports arena to act as the catalyst for the area’s missing economic engine.

“The development of the UTC master plan revealed the need for an arena that provides for larger sports and entertainment events than Chattanooga can currently host,” officials said.

Events that are missed opportunities for Chattanooga identified by the team include the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the Southern Conference men’s basketball tournament and the SEC women’s basketball tournament.

The arena would act as a catalyst for private development in the area and “activate and energize the entire neighborhood,” according to Craig Kronenberg with Hefferlin and Kronenberg Architects, who along with the Artech and Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon firms, created and presented the new master plan.

Another dramatic (but considered mandatory) proposal in the plan was the removal and relocation of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant.

Artech’s David Hudson said the team spoke with representatives with the industrial site, now considered prime real estate, who agreed that they are in the wrong location.

“If they could find some economically viable way to consolidate their operations with some of their other facilities, they would jump on it,” Hudson said.

Once removed, the large property would be developed into three quadrants with a large greenway bisecting the middle. A fourth quadrant proposed for the block sits on private property but was still included in the plan.

Hudson and the team emphasized the plant’s importance to providing jobs in that location since the 1940s but also addressed the changing needs of the neighborhood.

“As the Southside has changed, [the plant] has become less and less important and more and more inappropriate,” Hudson told the large crowd. Hudson said if the plant were no longer there, it would open up many more possibilities for development in the area.

Other features of the plan include an expansive urban plaza at the intersection of Broad and Main that would serve as a major gateway to the city’s newest art district.

A light rail system would utilize the existing rail tracks and help connect the area to UTC and eventually Lookout Mountain and St. Elmo.

An extensive greenway system would be developed to also serve as a connector and create more open spaces.

Merrill Eckstein, Finley Stadium’s executive director, said the West Main Street area is the city’s “next frontier.”

The team’s proposal concludes the design challenge series’ presentation phase. The next event will be Aug. 23 at Track 29, when a panel of judges will vote for the best project. The public will also be allowed to vote, and two awards will be given, including a Challenge Champion Award and a Civic Choice Award.

You can check out all six of the projects on the Urban Design Challenge website.