What Do You Know About Glass Street?

A blast from my past shows up on my Facebook messages – asking what I know about Glass Street – more specifically the work of the Glass Street Collective. Next thing I know another old connection is made, then formal plans emerge. Two days later I find myself standing on the curb looking up and down the Glass Street corridor, wondering exactly which door I should be banging on. Not much signage in sight. Seems advisable to get the right door…

A quick text gets blasted to the universe and like uttering the secret password a door suddenly opens behind me and a friendly face appears on the stoop. Mr. Zachary Atchley – old friend, social-entrepreneur, joyful to a fault. I enter the mixed-use space, meet The Collective team, see the sights: geek squad brewery, gangster rehab, school board election HQ… mixed use: 2.0. We grab some reading material and out the door for a walking tour.

I’m familiar enough with the main commercial corridor of Glass Street. Though not on the typical Chattanoogan’s routine routes, I find Glass Street a convenient cutover from downtown to Hixson/Harrison areas and much more inspiring than interstate drudgery. Always nice to see what new is happening on Glass. However, I’m struck how different it seems by foot. The architectural gems, empty storefronts, little artistic touches by the bus stop, my new favorite mural tucked secretly behind the H&R Block. “Welcome to East Chattanooga” a sign reads at the intersection of N. Chamberlain and Glass – “thanks, good to be here.”

On various curbs discussions happen – plenty to discuss in a place like this. We talk about the complicated history of this community: civil war, segregation, city expansion, Interstate investments, civil rights, civilian flights… The great movements of each of these historic happenings seem disproportionately to have affected this area. Zachary explains the newest theories of the power of art in decision making and business effectiveness; in this environment it seems plausible. A generous grant empowered The Glass Street Collective in 2013 to make some rather large public improvements in the area: new sidewalks – public art installations – street furniture – commercial building façade face-lifts. Nice, very nice.

But can this work? It is built – but will they come?… Well, a few already have, meet one of them in a soon to come Part II of this Glass Street series. Stay Tuned…

Learn More about the Glass Street Corridor and East Chattanooga >>

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