October 25, 2012

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Glass House Collective, an organization based out of an airy loft-style workspace on Glass Street is comprised of vibrant professionals with one common goal: breathe life into a once impressive area of Chattanooga that has, to no specific fault, been largely forgotten.

“Glass Street was booming a long time ago. I was a little girl when, with my parents driving up and down Glass Street, some of the activities and some of the things that you saw— it was a community and there were businesses that were doing well,” Shawanna Kendrick, community organizer for the district design vision said.  “I think that all of the residents are in agreement, as we are, that it can be built back up.”

While the initiative is in part based on a sense of nostalgia, as Program Director Katherine Currin explained, Glass Street is central to major growth areas in Chattanooga such as downtown and Enterprise South.  It also neighbors a national park and the popular Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.  Glass Street has good bones and Glass House Collective hopes that changing the public’s perception will bring energy back to this distinctive area.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do to bring businesses back to the storefronts is start with making Glass Street more safe, clean and inviting,” Teal Thibaud, director of communications and outreach said.

This seems to be Glass House Collective’s mantra, which has been echoed by Glass Street residents who have been more than willing to participate.  The process has grown organically through community meetings, a chance for residents to give opinions and suggestions about changes they want to see.  In the first meeting, Glass House Collective was able to capitalize on some of Tennessee’s top architects in Chattanooga for a statewide convention.  The architects were split into eight teams and peppered with Glass Street residents for preliminary brainstorming.  Twenty-six ideas were conceived which David Barlew, community design architect, narrowed down to the “Big Five.”  

“We know from the first meeting that most teams proposed a park so we’re taking that and we’re asking them what they would use a community space for to inform what kind of park it’s going to be,” Barlew said.  “We want them to have ownership over the document that ends up being produced.”

There are five more meetings planned with demographics ranging from local merchants to area children.  The idea of a “collective” really resonates here due to the level of support Glass House Collective has received not only from residents but community members outside of Glass Street.  The cooperation between the Glass House Collective team and residents has manifested into an initiative brimming with progressive ideas centered on the community’s needs.

“When we were first thinking of coming to Glass Street we started with conversations with residents, neighborhood associations, doing some door knocking.  There was a constant commitment to wanting to see something happen,” Currin said.  

On December 6th there will be a public unveiling party in celebration of the finished plans.  Glass Street’s revitalization will begin soon after.  Stay tuned for more innovations from Glass House Collective including an event called “Build a Better Block” in late February inspired by Memphis’ wildly popular, “A New Face for an Old Broad.”

To contact members of Glass House Collective for volunteer opportunities send an email to  For more information on Glass House Collective visit


October 25, 2012

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