CHATTANOOGA. The artist ‘Seven’ has left his signature on quite a few Chattanooga commercial structures. The latest commission can be seen at the landmark Chattanooga Choo-Choo highlighting a new residential community called Passenger Flats. Seven captures both the history of the site as a train hub and the current transformation as a music-centered entertainment district. We had to share.
Seven is the mural signature of Chattanooga artist Eric Finley, whose design company Kingdom Graphica has been a partner in several urban renewal projects. Finley is one of many artists working closely with Glass House Collective, a neighborhood-scale project where artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, foundations, and non-profit groups work together on strategies to revitalize the Glass Street area of East Chattanooga. It’s a challenging experiment in urban planning and community engagement.
Seven’s commissioned mural at the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo is the latest sign of the landmark’s growing vitality. The area has been repurposed as an entertainment district with Revelry Room and Track 29 making memories for audiences while offering performers that vital touring stop between Nashville and Atlanta. Songbirds is another Choo-Choo performance space we recently featured, unlike any other, and opens this fall. An impressive guitar exhibit will be featured at Songbirds.
Incorporating local art work elevates the soul of any place.
The present-day Choo-Choo mixed-use site was originally the terminal station for the Southern Railway line, with the depot’s main building built in 1908. A local favorite restaurant and pub, The Terminal, is next door and draws its name from that same rich local history. Only last week, architects Hefferlin and Kronenberg further captured the imagination of Chattanooga’s railway past when they opened The Wheelhouse nearby on Main, named for the mechanics that turn locomotives. Read our story on The Wheelhouse HERE.
Across the street and up a block, the former Grand Hotel, where train passengers once stayed at the turn of the past century, is also now a market-rate downtown apartment building which has been remodeled in the last two years.
Design-build architects with the firm Antidote have introduced the first single-family in-fill structures downtown, City Homes on Market Street, which will offer views of the iconic neon train atop the Choo-Choo. And now, the Choo-Choo itself is emerging as a residential community with Passenger Flats. In addition to the charming train car hotel rooms, people can now call the Choo-Choo ‘home.’
New urbanists will appreciate the thoughtful price point of Passenger Flats. A former big box hotel at the Choo-Choo campus has been repurposed and redesigned as apartments that skew affordable and offer all-inclusive amenities of wi-fi, a swimming pool, and of course, a quick evening stroll to some of the finest eateries and pups. The interiors lend themselves to modern trends with open shelving in the kitchens and clean lines in cabinetry.
The Southside neighborhood boasts an artisan bakery, Niedlov’s Breadworks, an indie bookstore Star Line, and delectables at the one-and-only Hot Chocolatier. Stir, a popular cocktail lounge and oyster bar, opened last year at the Choo-Choo. The electric shuttle offers free, quick trips to the city’s stunning Riverfront from its anchor bus station at the edge of the Choo-Choo campus. The Choo-Choo complex is a great example of adaptive re-use of a large urban footprint, a trend we like to see in the South.
The Choo-Choo complex is a great example of adaptive re-use of a large urban footprint, a trend we like to see in the South.
Chattanooga’s crossroads location led to the establishment of the area as a center of Native American village life and trade, and later as a hub of industry. Today, the crossroads is being realized in new ways. Just as early and unprecedented broadband investment has attracted tech and start-up industries to the downtown “Innovation District,” the geography allows Tennessee’s mid-size city to emerge as an entertainment hub for music, cinema and the visual arts. The city introduced a nationally-recognized film festival last year and its organizers are turning a former grocery a few blocks away into The Cine-Rama. The juried art festival, Four Bridges, draws a national audience and also echoes the architecture of the River City along the Tennessee.
We’ve often heard from artists and collectors alike that Chattanooga does a good job at incubating visual artists who sell strongly in the large metropolitan markets of nearby Atlanta and Nashville. It’s always meant as a compliment, though Chattanooga has organized a collaborative gallery scene. Available studio space and affordable living options with multiple price points are proving vital to keep a creative community locally engaged. Certainly, incorporating local art work elevates the soul of any place.