Our Work

Fostering Civically-Engaged Innovation

Client
  • Chattanooga Downtown Innovation District
Client Type
  • Nonprofit Organizations
Location

Chattanooga, TN

Practice Areas
  • Equitable Communities

Chattanooga Downtown Innovation District

Providing the physical space, economic initiatives, and social infrastructure for an inclusive innovation culture in Downtown Chattanooga.

 

Building on Chattanooga’s unique integration of its advanced digital assets with a dynamic culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, U3 Advisors was engaged to develop a Framework Plan for the Innovation District of Chattanooga. The framework would articulate the community’s shared values and vision for embracing the energy and excitement of the innovation economy. The final plan would also help ensure the District’s future decisions intentionally support the goals set out in the planning process to support innovation and a knowledge-based economy.

The Framework Plan revolves around a set of shared values that animate work, inform proposed use of land, and inspire how the City thinks about the people and culture that are integral to the Innovation District. These shared values reflect U3’s belief in the importance of:

  • Centering diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the Innovation District
  • Basing an authentic district identity on the area’s culture and history
  • Integrating education, students, and learning throughout the Innovation District as a way to solve problems and create new social and economic value
  • Recognizing that the public realm makes public life possible and vital
  • Creating an Urban Lab to grow new economic opportunities in today’s economy.

Distilled from the hopes and dreams expressed by Chattanoogans during the planning process, the Innovation District envisions that it becomes a place of unique tangible and intangible value to the city around it. Tangible outcomes will include, for example, new jobs and businesses, buildings renovated for new economy uses, more places for learning, better public spaces and more places to live. Equally important will be the intangible outcomes such as greater diversity, inclusion and sense of belonging, a pervasive air of creativity, risk taking and innovation, and a shared image for the future of our city and the people who call it home.

Challenge

Extend the opportunity footprint of the tech-based economic boom in Downtown to all Chattanoogans, no matter their educational attainment or economic status.

Solution

U3 Advisors developed four interrelated strategies to achieve the vision for the Downtown Innovation District. Two of the strategies are people-based: supporting the innovation ecosystem, and people and programming. The other two are place-based: public realm enhancement and building and redevelopment priorities. Implementing this plan has required joint efforts, new leaders, creative problem solving and talents as diverse as the city’s make-up.

Impact

The Chattanooga Innovation District (CHA ID) is lauded by the Brookings Institute as an example of addressing equity issues through the innovation economy. The CHA ID has successfully brought information technology to 4,500 Chattanoogans through the Tech Goes Home initiative, convened community stakeholders around Innovation District development and smart city piloting through the efforts of the Enterprise Center, and ensured that multipurpose community spaces are part of place-based innovation strategies and inviting to all Chattanoogans.

Four interrelated strategies are presented in the report for achieving the vision for the Innovation District. Two of the strategies are people-based: supporting the innovation ecosystem and connecting people and programming. The other two are place-based: public realm enhancement and building and redevelopment priorities. Implementing this plan will require joint efforts, new leaders, creative problem solving and talents a diverse as the city’s makeup. This plan lays out a flexible framework for guiding Chattanooga’s next important steps in growing its innovation economy, and the entire city is invited to be a part of these efforts.