Chattanooga Apartments for Rent
The historic Walnut Street Bridge is now a pedestrian bridge.
A view from Lookout Mountain
Jeffrey M. Frank/Shutterstock.com
Famous train at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
The top-rated Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga
Inside the cave at Ruby Falls
Stories of once-great downtown areas decimated by economic decline are not news. But imagine this: what if there were a city today that was so committed to, and successful with, recovery that it was named “one of the world’s great cities” by National Public Radio; one of the top 10 family vacation destinations by Family Fun magazine; featured on the covers of US News and World Report and Parade magazines; and communities from around the world, including the Republic of Zimbabwe, came to study its success? That story is not imaginary. That city is Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In 1980, reeling from the effects of two recessions, downtown Chattanooga was suffering serious economic decline, watching the exodus of major retailers, and had become a ghost town after five o’clock in the afternoon. But in 1982, citizens joined together with the goal of turning the city around, and in 1985 created and published the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan. By the 1990s the city began turning their plans into brick and mortar, and in 1992 the first success was realized with the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium.
The Aquarium was followed by the Chattanooga Visitors Center and the renovation of Walnut Street Bridge in 1993, the Creative Discovery Museum in 1995, and the IMAX Theatre in 1996. Across the river, Coolidge Park and its vintage carousel opened in 1999 followed by an expansion of the convention center, and a block away the Chattanoogan, a conference center and hotel was built.
Big River Grille and Brewing Works, a homegrown brew pub, became the anchor tenant in the historic downtown trolley barns. Carmike Cinemas, with its first venture into a downtown area in years, opened a multiplex cinema. Riverset Apartments opened as the first downtown housing built in downtown Chattanooga in more than a decade, and all 41 of the units were leased before the complex opened.
Today, citizens look out at a very different city. There is still work to be done; the original plan has evolved into the 21st Century Waterfront Plan, designed to reintegrate Chattanooga with its river roots. But thanks to the hard work and vision of its citizens, the city’s now-stable economy combines with its scenic beauty and strategic location to stand as one of the most progressive and livable mid-size cities in the nation. Imagine that!