Next District 6 Summit examines where plan goes next
When residents, businesspeople and city government representatives gather on June 7 for the “District 6 Summit,” one of the questions expected to be addressed is the speed—or lack thereof—at which proposed changes to Brainerd Road and adjacent areas are actually happening. The first “summit” on the subject, after all, took place April 18, 2008.
But, says City Councilperson Carol Berz, who represents District 6, the redevelopment plan for the area is moving along just about on the timeline expected. “Although sometimes it seems to go slowly, in order for the outcome to be durable, a number of diverse entities have to be at the table and be heard,” she says.
Progress is apparent, especially to those who haven’t been to Brainerd in a while. Berz cites “the ‘re-tooling’ of Eastgate and Brainerd Village, the new restaurants, the demolition of the vacant car dealer buildings at the levee and the design of the new park there, the Chamber [of Commerce]’s campaign to develop the ‘midTown’ concept as an area of enrichment, enlightenment and energy, and the many people from within and outside the District who have joined together to create a vision and make that vision happen.”
Challenges, however, remain. “Perhaps the next big hurdle and the one that will be featured at this next summit is the implementation of zoning ordinances that emphasize the concept of ‘place,’” Berz says. One of the June 7 meeting’s highlights, she says, will be representatives from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency “talking about the project they are working on to standardize and bring up-to-date the ordinances for zoning, construction, signage, etc. to go along with the Brainerd Road Corridor Plan.”
Regional Planning Agency Executive Director John Bridger also refers to the concept of “place” when discussing what he will present at the summit. “First, we have to establish a common understanding about why the idea of ‘place’ is important; how it adds to value, not detracts from it. We all have a role in creating ‘place.’ Second, we’ll talk about how that happens, with streetscapes, sidewalks, signage…We want to establish Brainerd as a gateway, not a throughway.”
Both Berz and Bridger note that changing codes for what is permitted on the busy artery will be difficult, but key to increasing its urban appeal. “Codes are by nature very black and white,” says Bridger. “But if we are going to build in a community, some standards are demanded. The challenge will be in building in enough flexibility to the codes that each individual situation can be evaluated fairly.” He points to places on Brainerd Road where parking cannot be eliminated to create streetscapes. “A little bit of randomness is good,” he says. “We’re talking about a shared common investment that gives us the quality of place we all want.”
Ultimately, those who actually live and work in Brainerd should have quite a bit to say about changes. “People should attend the summit or other community meetings,” says Berz. “Get involved with neighborhood associations. Our accomplishments are the result of public/private partnership and good old-fashioned collaboration with individuals, neighborhood associations, community organizations, property owners, developers and city and county officials, all of whom are interested in making District 6 a model place to live, work and play. We have been grassroots from the beginning.”
District 6 Summit, Friday, June 7, 8:30 -10:30 a.m., University of Phoenix, 1208 Pointe Circle Dr., #100. To receive information about meetings such as the District 6 Summit, send contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.