After three years of planning and reconstruction, a new space emerges.
At the corner of MLK and Georgia Avenue, there is a noticeable grid shift in the layout of the streets and the flow of traffic—both pedestrian and vehicular. It is a natural meeting point and has been the object of much scrutiny.
Events at ℹ️ Waterhouse Pavilion had been overflowing for several years and, obviously, leaders thought an upgrade was needed. Since 2013, plans have been cooking, with ℹ️ River City Company stirring the caldron, summoning members of the community to put forth ideas for the outgrown area through its City Center Plan and the Chattanooga Forward Task Force Initiative. In 2015 the design process began officially and in 2017 construction commenced.
With an inspired new design implemented by hundreds of craftsmen, the park has just reopened. “We are more than thrilled,” says City of Chattanooga spokesperson Richell Albright. “It has been a long process.” Planners say the openness the new park allows is a pleasant extension of the Plaza where Waterhouse Pavilion creates a landmark for the area on the ℹ️ Miller Plaza side. Now at the other end of the new park, adjacent to 10th Street, the venue features a pavilion, with a large cantilevered glass door opening to the lawn, a stage and public restrooms. The Pavilion will be known as the EPB Community Stage and will be available for events and performances.
The park also features a street-level grass lawn and an abstract rock outcropping designed by Matt Whitaker. The rock formation is located on the northeast corner and was made possible by a gift from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Foundation. Another important facet of the park’s redesign is the use of pavers and landscaping on MLK to visually join the parks. MLK will be closed off to car traffic during special events.
With the Edney Innovation Center a short block away, one goal of the renovated park is to showcase Chattanooga’s Innovation District. The City’s Public Art Commission will also be requesting bids from artists for unique temporary installations such as light shows or movie screenings to enliven the park. Movies shown in the park will be viewed on a 33’x25’ screen.
The design team included architectural and landscape design firms Spackman Mosset Michaels and Eskew+Damez+Ripple of New Orleans, March Adams & Associates of Chattanooga and architect of record Hefferlin+Kronenberg of Chattanooga.
“The idea was to create a public space for the city that would bring people together,” says Heidi Hefferlin, HK architect. “By opening this space up, you get views of Lookout Mountain and the beautiful Soloman Building, where the downtown post office is located.” The Joel Soloman Federal Building is an Art Deco masterpiece on Georgia Avenue designed by architect Reuben Harrison Hunt in the early 1930s.
The ongoing City Center planning process includes the renovation and programming of Patton Parkway, so that all three venues may be used in unison if needed. It creates endless options for all types of events.
“I have always believed that the best strategy for making Chattanooga prosper is to create a city that people love. Over the last five years, we have been focused on making our city safer, more inviting, and more enjoyable for people, because when people love where they live, they’ll invest and help us grow,” says Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “Miller Park is a park for all Chattanoogans in the heart of our city and brings this vision for Chattanooga together in a big, bold, beautiful way.”
The 78,522-square-foot park has 25,500 square feet of lush Bermuda grass lawn. A total of 78 trees—tulip trees, beech, redbud, oak, maple and holly have been planted and the effect is bold and beautiful.
The total cost of the project was $10.6 million, and the City of Chattanooga provided $4.2 million of that. The remaining funds were privately raised by River City Company from local donors including— ℹ️EPB Fiber Optics, BlueCross BlueShield Health Foundation, ℹ️ Benwood Foundation, ℹ️ Lyndhurst Foundation, Maclellan Foundation, DeFoor Brothers, First Tennessee Foundation, Fletcher Bright, SunTrust foundation, The Simpson Organization, Weldon F. Osborne Foundation, Pinnacle Financial Partners, SmartBank, Henderson Hutcherson and McCullough, Chambliss Law, Miller & Martin and Perimeter Properties.
“We know that building a beautiful park is just the first step in creating a great public space. The next is to program it and create different reasons for people to come to Miller Park again and again,” says River City’s Amy Donahue. The park will host programs like Noontunes on Wednesdays for 10 weeks, starting September 19 and Food Truck Fridays along with an arts and culture program from September 28-November 16. Wellness programming is part of the mix, too. The monthly complimentary workout series, City Sweat, will come to Miller Park starting September 20.
The park may also be reserved for private events and an online reservation system for Miller Park is being developed and will launch soon. In the meantime, the park may be reserved by calling the City of Chattanooga’s Open Spaces division at 423-643-6884. Fees vary, depending on the size of the group, duration of the event and other factors. If the group holds a nonprofit status, the fee structure is lower. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.
See chattanooga.events/venue/miller-plaza for a calendar of events.