Making downtown Chattanooga a better place to live, shop, work, play, travel and build is the goal of the Planning and Design Studio, an arm of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. Through a series of community meetings, residents have had the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the New Downtown Plan, which will serve as a guideline for downtown development in the next decade. Planning and Design Studio Director Karen Hundt says the thoughtful inclusion of UTC in the planning process provides a "critical element to the study."

"We believe there are ways that downtown can reconnect with the campus to make it a better place for students and residents living in the area. We are looking at signage, accessibility, and the image of the University in the downtown area. We are also looking at new UTC student housing and how it is being integrated into the surrounding neighborhood," Hundt said.

Emerging themes discussed in the community meetings include the creation of more housing, improved parking, pedestrian-friendly streets, more parks and green spaces, and incentives for building new housing.

UTC occupies a major land mass of 150 acres at Chattanooga’s urban core, an integral part of the city’s economic development, according to Richard Brown, UTC Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations.

"No longer can we afford to act as an island and plan separately. By 2004, the University will provide quality housing for downtown with 2000 additional beds in student housing and a collateral economic impact of $10 million in buying power for the surrounding community," Brown said.

Ongoing and future projects are planned with architectural and design elements that are compatible with community standards, according to Brown.

Capital investment on campus will total $150 million, and projects include:

• The construction of a $30 million Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics Building
• $20 million campus housing to open in fall, 2002
• $15 million renovation to the UTC University Center
• $12 million for a campus wellness center
• $7 million investment into the redevelopment of Engel Stadium
• $12 million capital maintenance improvements throughout the campus

Additionally, an $8 million elementary school, Brown Academy on East 8th Street, will be completed in Fall, 2002 allowing a partnership with the UTC College of Education.

More information on The New Downtown Plan and the process is available at: www.chcrpa.org/Plans/Downtown/Downtown_Main_Page.htm.