Thursday, June 28, 2012

Featured Neighborhood: Southside Chattanooga

Local band Prophets and Kings performs atop the old Discoteca building,
now a temporary community mural project, and soon to be demolished.
Chattanooga's Southside has been featured yet again in a national publication, this time on Fast Company in an article entitled, "How Chattanoogans Partied Their Way To a Cleaner, Safer, Richer City." These days, its' hard to believe the Southside was ever anything but the happening neighborhood that's home to all kinds of businesses and galleries, from a high end furniture store to an artisan butcher to coffee shops that rival Seattle's for good vibes. But as Alissa Walker points out in her Fast Company piece, it was only five or six years ago that Main Street was considered dangerous, derelict, and a lost corridor. Once a 'hood with low property values where even the cheapest college students and poorest families would think twice about renting a house, Main Street today is full of beautifully redone lofts, brand new town homes, and fresh single family development. Fast Company quotes Katherine Currin, who works with revitalization organization Glass House Collective, about the Southside's transition from ugly duckling to swan, 
"In 2006, Chattanoogans had the broad perception that Main Street and the adjacent Southside residential area was an abandoned and dangerous neighborhood, far removed from its once-animated and vibrant character," she says. "Working with partners from around the city, CreateHere proved that the Southside is not a forgotten neighborhood, and that excitement can return to vacant urban spaces. Through that process, Chattanooga has become a more vibrant and active city." 
The parties that Fast Company highlights as catalysts for change were Create Here's legendary Main x 24 events. These wintertime festivities created twenty four hours worth of entertainment, business incubation, food, and fun. They also inspired new businesses to put down roots and brought new customers to the few pioneers that first joined Create Here on Main. Today Southside residents live in walking distance of an ever-growing group of great businesses. Niko's Southside Grill, AlleiaTaqueria JalescoUrban Stack, Conga, La Altena, Mean Mug, and The Camphouse are just a few of the local restaurants and eateries in the area. 
Friends peruse the menu at The Meeting Place
Photo credit: Rachelle Fourquemin
Main Street is also home to one of Chattanooga's best coffee roasters, Velo, and Terminal Brewhouse, a local brewery and restaurant, featuring a delicious variety of standard, seasonal, and special batch brews. For oenophiles, the new DeBarge Winery just opened, offering "Chardonooga," a blend of Chardonelle and Cayuga grapes. These artisan drink makers are in good company, just blocks from the Link 41 sausage company and Niedlov's Breadworks. The concentration of locally owned businesses and eateries in Chattanooga, and especially in the Southside, stands in contrast to the slew of chains that residents are used to, even in much larger cities like Columbus, OH. In addition to all the good grub on Main, convenient electric shuttle access makes it easy to jet further up Market Street to downtown proper, where there is even more to see, eat, and do. 
A meetup of locals at Southside nonprofit Gaining Ground.
Photo credit: David Moon
Perhaps the crown jewel of the Southside's revitalization is Track 29, Chattanooga's premier concert venue. Track 29 was developed to attract national talent, offering a large enough space and top of the line equipment to support major acts like Jack White, the Avett Brothers, M. Ward, Matisyahu, and Social Distortion. Its neighboring businesses may be more locally-focused, but no less cool, with a host of art galleries, and antique shops that offer paintings, sculpture, furniture, jewelry and more in a range of prices and styles. During the summer months, the Southside Stroll is a popular event. The last Friday of every month, May-September, 5-8 PM, the businesses on and around Main Street host open houses with beverages, hors devours, and live music, showcasing their wares and meeting and greeting customers and newcomers alike. It's absolutely one of the best Chattanooga events of the summer. Some of the galleries have been participating ever since the event was called Last Fridays On Main, including the H*Art Gallery, Area 61, Merchants on Main, and Planet Altered. Others are relative newcomers, like the residence-cum-studio Easy Lemon Loft, home to an artist and composer couple who open up their home as a gallery each month. Main Street also features the Crash Pad hostel, where those who aren't lucky enough to live locally can affordably land right in the thick of all the Southside has to offer.
An art bicycle and revelers at the May 2012 Southside Stroll
The Southside has been attracting new businesses of all kinds, making it easier than ever to live where you work. Craftworks is one of the major bussinesses to move its office to Main Street, helping to fill a huge historic building that was once a brewery, and is shared with the Townsend Atelier and the Hot Chocolatier. Southside Creative Group is so committed to the neighborhood that it's in their name. Thanks largely to the responsibility of Create Here for the success of the Southside, it's a neighborhood that is always buzzing with the activities of other organizations and nonprofits, including Gaining Ground, Green Spaces, Make Work, and more. These organizations regularly host workshops, meetings, and speaking events that focus on continued urban improvements, bringing business to the area, and environmental sustainability. That's a lot of activity for one neighborhood that, such a short time ago, had all but been given up on. Even more exciting developments are in the works for the Southside, with area residents eagerly looking forward to the opening of Enzo's Market, a grocery store that will be a welcome accompaniment to the already-popular Main Street Farmer's Market.

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