The second is the SPARC Initiative. SPARC stands for “Sustaining People and Reclaiming Communities,” and the keyword here is “reclaim.” Instead of professional planners and politicians determining the future of individual communities, we work to deliver the tools of community planning directly into the hands of the people.
I can think of no better example than our work with Lincoln Park. This community was told that a road was going to be built through their historic community park. City officials said the plans were set and couldn’t be stopped. SPARC changed this. They’ve won a promise from Mayor Andy Berke to be included in all conversations regarding their community and a promise that no road would be built through their park. Lincoln Park is now making plans for itself—plans that include a reunion and getting historic status for their park.
CM: Where do you see COA in the future?
PL: First you have to ask where Chattanooga is in the future. Chattanooga’s renaissance has not been equitable. Investment hasn’t been equitable. We may have more millionaires and luxury condos, but this renaissance has occurred in the midst of a 75.2 percent increase in poverty levels, according to the Brookings Institute. We have some communities with 23 percent unemployment rates, but some communities where the median family income exceeds $100,000 annually. This is not the Chattanooga I want to live in. But what this city becomes is up to us. This is what COA will be working on.