"This is a prime example of a project that would have benefited from a facilitated conversation between the developer and the community," adds urban designer Christian Rushing, another Design Studio alum who mounted a retrospective of its history last year. "Maybe there's a way to do storage units that has some form of animated retail component that fronts one of the primary streets. The purpose of those conversations is not to have a winner and a loser. The developer gets a better project and the community gets new development."
"We want to encourage development," says Hefferlin. "The thing that's missing is a design review process. People are reacting to the fact that it's just something that could have happened in any other town. It's not respectful of our neighborhood."
Maybe it's not too late for this storage building to make a contribution to the Southside's public realm. Or, with construction under way, maybe nothing can be done now and its contribution will be to join Chattanooga's growing list of urban design mistakes—think Buffalo Wild Wings, Publix, Walgreen's—that are making more people shake their heads and say, "This has got to stop."