Activating Our Intersections

Glass House Collective surveyed neighbors back in 2014, and cleaner, safer, and more inviting were the top 3 adjectives that kept coming up. We had neighbors who were handicapped and elderly, but the roads were not ADA-compliant or handicap accessible. We had neighbors concerned about safety at night due to no pedestrian lighting. We have tons of youth who couldn’t walk on the sidewalk together because it was so narrow. Cars were driving fast and not slowing down. These were concerns to neighbors so they became concerns for us.

We received community input on how, where, and what should be designed at the corner of North Chamberlain and Glass Street.  ADA-compliant, handicap accessible sidewalks, streetlights, curb bump-outs, and traffic calming trees were all installed based on a design the using neighbors’ input. This was a big win for our community. The City of Chattanooga investment $350,000 into this intersection and since then we’ve seen 1.8 million dollars of public investment go into purchasing and renovating buildings along Glass Street.

In 2016 at the Next Big Thing Urbanism workshop, GHC was advised to “book end” Glass Street with similar improvements at the intersection of Dodson Avenue and Glass Street, and our neighbors were very excited to participate in generating design concepts. So, we made that a priority and raised funding to both solicit feedback and begin the project.

In 2017, residents imagined a landscaped Glass Street at the intersection of Dodson Avenue and Glass Street. They participated in an interactive activity at Glass Street LIVE that invited color-coded post-it style feedback to indicate preferences for green space, desired or undesired land use, and a color for new ideas.

Under the leadership of Nicole Lewis, our Community Relations Manager, the 80 responses received at GSL were collated, and GHC further engaged residents in what they would like to see take shape at the intersection of Dodson Avenue and Glass Street. During February and March 2018, Nicole initiated twelve community input design sessions engaging 200 neighbors in the East Chattanooga area. Building on the input gained during 2017 Glass Street LIVE, the process focused on partnering with community leaders, neighborhood associations, local elementary schools, and neighbors.

The artistic process for gathering feedback was created and facilitated by 800 Collective’s Josiah Golson and Mary Ann Twitty. The Chattanooga Design Studio was involved in the initial meeting with 800 Collective about the information needed to be useful for planning. Shawana Kendrick, who was an assistant facilitator in the 2014 community input sessions centered around the North Chamberlain and Glass St. intersection, was hired to help with facilitation of the larger meetings.

With funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Glass House Collective had the opportunity to invest dollars in neighbors to host the streetscaping dinners, instigating a flow of welcome and pride through sharing hospitality with friends new and old. Residents invited their neighbors into their homes for small group discussions about improvements needed at the intersection. Over 50 neighbors participated in the dinners. Many of these neighbors had never previously engaged in traditional meetings and had no interest in doing so, but were grateful to be engaged in a non-traditional manner. A Larger meeting was hosted by Councilwoman Coonrod and another one with Darien Scott from the Chamber at the Orchard Knob Elementary Community School PTA meeting. Habitat for Humanity and local neighbors were involved in the Recreation Centers meetings.

Since this streetscape project was so inclusive and creative, our application about the project was chosen as a panel presentation at the Intersections 2018, Smart Growth America’s placemaking and complete streets conference held nearby in Nashville, TN. Session overview can be found here. Speakers included:

·       Bert Kuyrkendall, P.E., Senior Transportation Engineer ()

·       Blythe Bailey, AIA, Administrator (Chattanooga Department of Transportation)

·       Nicole Lewis, Manager of Community Relations (Glass House Collective)

·       Josiah Golson, Artist (Glass House Collective)

·       Greg Heath, DHSc, MPH, Guerry Professor of Exercise Science, Health and Human Performance (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga)

During the neighborhood dinner sessions, common themes of safety, landscaping improvements, new uses for existing buildings, and new uses for a vibrant public space were included in the recommendations and analysis given to architect, David Barlew. The report and analysis can be found here. David created technical drawings from the analysis. He also estimated all costs for the project based on unit costs provided by CDOT.

At Glass Street Live 2018 on Saturday, November 3rd, David and a team of volunteers and neighbors installed a “tour” of the proposed permanent changes by along a 40-foot stretch between 2200-2300 Glass Street to take some of the ideas off the drawing board and temporarily illustrate them on a human scale. This provided for another chance to voice opinions. This short block was chosen as the “life-sized street sketch” for a few reasons, including the desire for wider sidewalks and a more pedestrian-friendly area. This stretch includes existing 9-foot sidewalks already, making it a great starting point to expand on that pedestrian-friendly idea.

Glass Farm resident Johnny Patmon volunteered to help kick things off in the morning and said he appreciates how the block party became a place for productive conversations directly with the community who are impacted and advocating for change on Glass Street. “That’s who you should ask in the first place, is the community who wants to see change and improvement in their community. So we asked people if they lived in the neighborhood and for how long because that’s important,” he said.

Feedback on the streetscaping proposal and signatures of support were gathered in different ways throughout the day at Glass Street LIVE. Gail McKeel, who has lived near Glass Street for years, prepared several signs expressing different opinions of the mock-up and streetscaping plans. Visitors to the installation were asked to pose for pictures with signs of their choosing that expressed their opinion of the proposed scheme. In all, Gail collected more than fifty photos of individuals, friends, couples, neighbors, and families sharing their thoughts about the mock-up. All 60+ photos of residents participating in this activity can be found here.

Our common public space comes alive only to the extent that we view it as a shared resource in which as many neighbors as possible participate and understand the difference design makes for everybody. We look forward to activating the area between now and when the permanent changes are underway.

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