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    Westside Evolves

    Our planning team is always creating special communities for existing areas and those yet to be built. Some of their more impactful and memorable work are those times when the team gets to engage with the community, collect input, and build relationships. One of these such projects is in Chattanooga with an opportunity to collaborate with other teams on the future of the Westside neighborhood. Formally the project is known as Westside Evolves – a neighborhood vision for the development of about 30 acres of the Westside area and aims to be a “roadmap for (the) equitable, sustainable, and holistic revitalization of the community and families who live here”. 

    “The plan is a concept – a development framework that allows for flexibility and scalability as new opportunities emerge, or assumptions change. Over time, the plan can be adjusted to reflect changing market conditions and other local factors. However, the vision and goals set forth are intended to remain as guiding principles for all future activities.” 

    Westside Evolves – Rooted in History, Poised for Future Success Nov 2021

    The Process: 

    To arrive at the best solutions and suggestions that the team could propose, this involved several meetings with various stakeholders such as the Community Advisory board, Resident Leaders, Executive team, and the residents themselves. A resident and neighborhood survey provided more information, polling about 82% of the housing community, and workshops were used as physical and virtual creative sessions.  Furthermore, a local artist team was engaged to document the stories and memories of this neighborhood and be another outlet for questions, concerns, and suggestions. Needless to say, this was an immense effort by all involved and has become a more rewarding experience.

    Hunter Gee of Smith Gee Studio presenting and hosting a workshop

    The Plan: 

    Through the process above, the team arrived at a strong design direction for the community. The plan centers around the rebirth of the local and historic James A. Henry school, supplemented by including “retail, services and economic development into the area to connect residents to amenities near home.” Another focus was incorporating sustainable principles into the master plan and providing connections of green spaces and walkways that connect various parts of the community. There is also a strong desire to leverage the historic school as a cultural center and build on the neighborhood community relationships by bonding over local art and culture.

    Evolution of the neighborhood master plan

    The Future: 

    Westside has been a home for local trailblazers and they want to continue fostering great people and leaders in the community. This includes providing better access for academic success and developing gateways into careers and opportunities in Chattanooga. While this frames a great setup for children of the neighborhood, it also is geared towards the parents and caretakers of those children by increasing accessibility to workforce training, career changes, and other modes of economic self-sufficiency.

    The Plan creates multiple pathways for increased economic self-sufficiency regardless of employment experience or background through the leveraging of a more robust infrastructure, local in-neighborhood hiring agreements, and pathways and training opportunities with local partners… Growing and supporting local and micro-businesses and ensuring equitable access to resources and opportunities will build the talent and entrepreneurship that already exists in the Westside and will encourage others to realize their potential.

    Westside Evolves – Rooted in History, Poised for Future Success Nov 2021
    Conceptual aerial of Westside

    …To Be Continued: 

    Westside has a bright future ahead thanks to the passionate people of the neighborhood and the teams involved. I hope you are as excited as I am to see the growth and passion continue in this vibrant community in Chattanooga.

    If you’d like to learn a lot more than what I described here, please visit the project’s website here.