We’re nowhere near the end of a whirlwind first day in Chattanooga as I write this, but wow.
What we’ve seen in less than a day on the Tennessee River is the culmination of 40 years of planning. From a tightly constructed arts and entertainment corridor that connects the river with a historic American arts complex to a green housing development to a double-pronged transit plan that makes the city easy to navigate, it’s not hard to see why Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said at midday, “This is what we want to be.”
Chattanooga has transformed itself in four decades in a massive public-private investment partnership that’s run into the billions. City leaders here consider it a success, and who can doubt them? New, modern private development is everywhere. Volkswagen and two other major industries have signed on, thanks to the quality of life the city has created and its willingness to give those companies incentives.
That’s not to say that Chattanooga doesn’t have its rundown areas. But city leaders have ideas in place for the most moribund areas, and they’re able to chuckle at some of the long-forgotten businesses there, such as the “State of Confusion” frontage on one downtown street.
One big dream here is a plan to use passenger rail to connect a billion-dollar development project in the south part of the city with downtown and UT-Chattanooga.
If there’s a message in what we’ve seen today, it’s that dreaming isn’t a junket and it isn’t a boondoggle. Because without dreams, progress is impossible.