Chattanooga Shares Riverfront Development Success

Public parks and pedestrian pathways connect various segments of Chattanooga's tourist friendly downtown. Anchored by the scenic Tennessee river, the successful development was the result of deliberate planning.

The effort that led to this city's transformation came to be known as "The Chattanooga Way."

"We have a motto that's followed us through the waterfront redevelopment. And that's "working together works". And that's really taken a lot of partnerships and a lot of cooperation and a development of a common vision and a sense of what our values were," said Jeff Pfitzer, who helped direct the riverfront renaissance.

South Mississippi leaders are studying the blueprint of successful downtown and waterfront development. Many of the ideas and processes that helped boost this Tennessee city, could also work in South Mississippi.

John Harral is involved with development plans in downtown Gulfport through the city's "Main Street" organization.

"It is going to take what you see here in Chattanooga, which is some of the historic buildings being renovated with retail on the first floor and the offices on the second and apartments on the third. Apparently, what it takes to really do that is some incentives to help those property owners. And we're trying to put those incentives in place in Gulfport," he said.

Partnerships and community input and history and quality and inclusion are all ingredients Chattanooga leaders highlight when asked about their success.

But perhaps the most difficult requirement boils down to a five letter word that's all too familiar to government leaders.

"Money probably," said Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott, "We're doing pretty good with permits, they're coming back a good bit. The businesses are a little slower coming back. But right now, revenue is going to be the biggest problem."

Chattanooga relied on a mix of grants and government funds and private money to fund its 120 million dollar riverfront development.

The city was fortunate to receive many millions from a charitable foundation with ties to the Coca Cola company. Leaders of this city say it's important to remember that each community will create its own plan, using some of the principles that worked in Tennessee.

"Don't be afraid to make bold plans. Really, that's how we've managed to accomplish what we've done. We've set high standards. We made very bold plans. And we've basically said, this is our place and we have a right to enjoy it and see it reach its biggest potential," said Pfitzer.

Coast leaders will use some of the Chattanooga ideas in pursuing South Mississippi's full potential.