Original Date: 04/22/1996
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Sustainable Development
An evolutionary initiative begun in the late 1960s helped guide Chattanooga from a city addressing specific problems to one with an infusive vision of sustainable development and growth. Responding to a U.S. Health, Education and Welfare designation as the worst polluted city in the country in 1969, Chattanooga made a commitment to transform the City's reputation by first confronting independent issues. In time, those issues became interdependent and subsequently evolved into a collection of community projects that improved Chattanooga's quality of life. Specific issues of address included industrial pollution, fair and better housing, downtown transportation enhancement, clean-up of the river, business development, cultural facilities, and disabled adult workers. Chattanooga maintains that sustainable development has best been defined as a way to implement economic development while saving natural resources and respecting environmental concerns.
One example of this commitment was the reconnection to the Tennessee River that runs through the City and that has long been considered its lifeblood. To that end, the Tennessee Aquarium was constructed -- providing an unanticipated appeal for students, researchers and visitors and attracting more than one million visitors in its first six months of operation. It generated $133M in documented economic activity from an initial, private investment of $45M. The condemned Walnut Street Bridge was also restored and developed into a park-like pedestrian bridge spanning the river with aesthetically landscaped walkways and parks along the riverbanks. This bridge provided easy access to downtown businesses, shops, restaurants and museums.
Community leaders also emphasized inner-city issues related to housing and neighborhood improvements as well as development of new business incubation facilities. Projects were planned with input from the community through town meetings and were implemented with cooperation from City, county, federal, civic, and industrial organizations. The catalyst for initiating many project activities came from foundation grants, donated facilities, benchmarking community problems against other communities having similar problems, and creative problem solving.
The City keeps initiatives energized by combining clusters of problems and taking advantage of federal grants, private donations, and revenues from tax referendums that are considered community investments. Sustainable development and growth is an ongoing, work-in-process effort that is gaining support from the local manufacturing industry which constitutes 23% of Chattanooga's economic activity. It also continues through many community activities and projects including the Millennium III planning process. Millennium III is a community participation, goal-setting process that focuses on Chattanooga's social and economic needs and helps establish final goals and projects for the 21st century.
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