This story was originally published in the 2012 April/May issue of Chattanooga Magazine.
In the world of rock climbing, a crash pad is a soft, cushioned mat, designed give climbers a place to land after scaling a boulder. At Chattanooga’s Crash Pad the idea is much the same.
The Crash Pad, billed as an “uncommon hostel,” is located in the heart of Chattanooga’s Southside and was designed to be a place where outdoor adventurers traveling to the Scenic City can stay while they play.
“The original thought was just to create a hangout for climbers,” says Co-Owner, Dan Rose, an avid climber, himself. Rose and his close friend (now business partner) Max Poppel, both graduates of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, relocated to Chattanooga seven years ago from their hometown of Boston. At the time, they weren’t looking to start up a business. They just wanted to climb.
“We came here for the rock climbing, plain and simple,” Rose says. “And of course, it was important to live in a cool city. I really enjoy the atmosphere here in Chattanooga.” But, the two soon noticed that something was missing, as did fellow Northeast climbing transplant, and now Crash Pad General Manager, Al Smith.
“Most of the country’s prominent climbing destinations have a place where climbers can gather, rest while they’re in town and meet other people,” Smith explains. “Chattanooga didn’t have anything like that.” Rose and Poppel saw a clear opportunity. They pictured building a climber campground out in Suck Creek, according to Rose. As they began to further explore the possibility, they realized there was an opportunity to do a lot more.
“We broadened our scope,” says Rose. They realized Chattanooga was drawing more than just rock climbers. There were trail runners, bikers, kayakers and more traveling here every day. And, by moving their project downtown they could even serve throngs of tourists who come into town for not-so-adventurous reasons.
That’s when their endeavor began to really take shape. They would build a hostel in downtown Chattanooga. It would be geared toward the outdoor adventurer, but comfortable and nice enough for the common traveler.
“Chattanooga was ripe for it,” says Smith. “We were in the right place at the right time. There’s a burgeoning outdoor community here, and the city was thriving, even during a recession.” When Rose and Poppel set out to find the perfect place for their hostel, they knew where they wanted to look.
“We liked the direction of the Southside,” explains Rose. “It has a real atmosphere of growth and lots of new businesses. Plus, we really felt the support of the community. It just came down to finding the perfect piece of land.” That piece of land was a one-acre plot on Johnson Street, behind Niedlov’s Bakery.
“The luckiest part of the whole process was that we found this acre of land,” says Rose. “It’s private, it has trees on it. We couldn’t ask for more.” With their location secured, construction of the Crash Pad was set to begin. First, Rose and Poppel began doing their homework, visiting over 30 hostels around the country. “That research was invaluable,” he adds. “We learned the importance of cleanliness, and how to lay things out in a way so that people could have as much privacy as possible.”
As one might expect from a group of outdoor enthusiasts, they also valued the importance of being environmentally friendly—and it shows in the Crash Pad’s construction. The owners worked hand-in-hand with local environmental construction advocate, Green Spaces, to make every part of the Crash Pad as environmentally responsible as possible. Blythe Bailey with River Street Architecture did the design work. Collier Construction was the builder.
The building features a “green roof,” solar panels, low-flow faucets, high-efficiency lighting, insulated concrete walls and even a water recycling system that uses water from the sink to flush the toilets. In addition, much of the building’s woodwork is made from wood they reclaimed from the two abandoned houses that once stood on the property. They also made a commitment to using locally-sourced construction materials which reduced their carbon footprint even further.
“The advantages [of relying on local goods and services] are many,” explains Smith. “In addition to being greener, it makes communication easier, and helps foster a stronger business community. And, of course, we’re contributing to the local economy. “Plus—Chattanooga happens to have really skilled craftsmen, so it was an easy decision.” It all adds up to a highly sustainable operation, according to the folks at the U.S. Green Building Council, who award the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The Crash Pad team submitted paperwork in March, and they expect to be named the world’s first LEED Platinum Certified hostel this summer.
“We have to thank Green Spaces,” says Rose. “Without their generous support, the Platinum Certification would not have been something we would have been able to pursue.” While that may be true, gaining LEED certification also takes an incredible attention to detail—something that’s evident in every part of the Crash Pad.
Each of the 24 hand-crafted “Super Bunks” are secured firmly to the wall so as to cut down on noise, and feature plush mattresses, personal fans, wall outlets, privacy curtains and Wi-Fi access. Six private rooms boast a pillow-top queen bed, built-in night stand and a unique, handcrafted custom sink.
The indoor commons area features a full refrigerator, appliances for cooking and computers with internet access, as well as a set of beautifully handcrafted benches. Outside the building is a lighted pavilion with built-in speaker system, a gas fire pit and shared BBQ grill.
“People can expect an experience here that you wouldn’t normally get from a hostel,” says Al. “In addition to being great for the outdoor crowd, we’ve really made the hostel model approachable for pretty much anyone that doesn’t mind not having a TV in their room.”
“I would encourage anyone with any preconceived notions about what hosteling is like, to come take a tour,” adds Rose. “We love to show people what we have here.”
Visit crahpadchattanooga.com for more information.
Story by Keith Rawlston
Photography by Mandy Rhoden, courtesy of The Crash Pad