Glass House Collective moved offices on Friday, March 30th! Renovation work is finally complete at 2513 N. Chamberlain Ave., the formerly vacant Rays Records building along the Glass Street commercial corridor. Like all of our work, this project has been a true collaboration with partners, local property owners, contractors, sub-contractors, architects, and designers. Now we get to invite our partners and neighbors to come get a feel for the lovely new space at our open house event on Thursday, April 19th from 4:00-6:00 PM.

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Through a generous grant from the Lillian Colby Foundation we were able to commission Rondell Crier and his apprentices at Studio Everything to create custom signage and furniture for our new space. They crafted a gorgeous conference table, custom shelving, desk modifications, and the new sign to hang out front, clearly letting neighbors know where to stop by and gather to discuss the health and progress along Glass Street.

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In partnership with the building’s owner, we plan to activate the space for a three-year period, recruit a new quality tenant, and restart the process in another vacant building. If the opportunity arises to purchase our own building, we have the flexibility to speed up the process, as long as another quality tenant is able to take over our lease.  The property owner contributed $15,000 to this project. Through grant funds from the Educational Foundation of America, Lyndhurst Foundation, and Lillian Colby Foundation, GHC contributed $35,000 and received another $15,000-$20,000 in donated services through contracting and design discounts, and volunteer hours and Lowe’s Grant support from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga.

This model is intentional. We want to demonstrate real investment into the community, and intend that the progress we work toward is equitable and open to all local business owners working to inspire the continued growth of pride and confidence in the area.

To that end we have designed this space to be used by our neighbors, and look forward to hosting community meetings and other gatherings here. We invite you to join us the first Monday evening of every month for our Good Neighbor Network meetings, where business owners, nonprofit partners, and neighbors come together to share a meal, voice their concerns, and come up with ideas for ways to improve their neighborhood.

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Our new office space looks incredible. Glass House Collective is now in a better position to achieve our Business Development Mission to improve local business viability. As we host more events and invite more business owners to visit us, we showcase the potential of the vacant and underutilized buildings along Glass Street.

As we increase foot traffic in the neighborhood, we celebrate the distinctiveness of this historic area and remind people that it is worthy of investment. When GHC is ready to move on to a new space, a new tenant will occupy the office, and the vibrancy of East Chattanooga will continue to grow. We have learned that good partnerships are essential, renovation costs are always higher and the timeline is always slower than expected, and while it is worthwhile to hire locally based sub-contractors, and innovate a process with a commercial space we do not own ourselves, these factors have presented communication and progress challenges that take time, tenacity, and patience on all sides.

We are planning to ramp up our business development efforts along Glass Street. In an effort to maintain affordability in the neighborhood, GHC has decided to pursue ownership of a building, land, or both. We are in the process of making a donation request to the city and county for a building that they own on Glass Street. If we are granted the property, we plan to explore the option of co-ownership with Studio Everything, and recruit tenants to rent out the remaining space. This renovation process has given us the knowledge and the confidence to take on a new role on Glass Street.

As property owners, we will continue to spark positive change in East Chattanooga, and we hope to increase the sustainability of our organization through earned revenue. Another avenue we’re exploring to achieve our mission of business development is the formation of a Glass Street Business Association. We hope to help strengthen the existing businesses and grow the number of business owners, resulting in increased economic development and job opportunities for our neighbors. The first step in achieving these goals was to complete the renovation of our new space, bringing life to a formerly vacant building.