A Vision for Chattanooga’s Next Great Public Space
Montague Park sits at a centerpoint of Chattanooga’s urban valley – 45 acres of public land full of potential to be a gathering place for thousands of diverse residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. Already home to Sculpture FIelds, a nationally acclaimed sculpture park, Montague will soon welcome the Chattanooga Football Club (CFC) Foundation onto a portion of the site, bringing with it three athletic fields and hundreds of children and their families. Where some might find such a pairing at odds, stakeholders have been working for six months to create a vision that reimagines the public space and unifies multiple community resources in a single, beautiful park.
Creating a Shared Vision
The Benwood and Lyndhurst Foundations provided support for the Chattanooga Design Studio to lead a collaborative process to create an inspirational new vision for Montague Park. A steering committee including Chattanooga Parks and Outdoors, members of Sculpture Fields, CFC Foundation, Main Street Farmers Market, and Clinica Medicos together chose to engage Reed Hilderbrand as landscape architect and lead planner for the project.
“We studied parks where arts and sports and food are all in one place,” explains Eric Myers, Executive Director of Chattanooga Design Studio. “We visited parks that have been completed recently and none of them matched the potential of Montague Park and its location in our city. We have an opportunity here that is unique.”
As the steering committee gathered public input and identified guiding principles, each stakeholder group began to see how they complemented their peers.
Sculpture Fields Chairwoman Kim Adams says, “It was a process of building relationships and bridges with each other and out into the community. We want to be relevant and evolve and be certain we are changing in a way that will support our city, our community, and our region.”
“I am super grateful for this opportunity to create something not just good but great,” says Krue Brock, Director of the CFC Foundation.
A Park for All of Us
Reed Hilderbrand’s proposed plan for Montague Park features four distinct areas.
The Civic Edge – The primary entrance to the park along Polk Street blurs the border between the urban realm and the park realm. This area will feature community swings and lounge chairs, a splash pad, and permanent shade structures perfect for a farmers market.
Sculpture Fields – Trees and plants will line numerous paths to create intimate outdoor galleries and wide open vistas for experiencing sculpture.
“The landscaped rooms we can make for the sculpture are one of my favorite parts of the plan,” Adams says. “Having that space will allow us to expand programming for the community.”
The Sculpture Fields portion of Montague Park will also include The Great Lawn, a performance space that can welcome 2,000 people backed with a breathtaking sculpture. A maquette of the sculpture can be seen at Sculpture Fields’ main office on Polk Street.
The Heart – In the middle of Montague Park visitors will be able to lose themselves in nature, as the land will be shaped to form hills and ridges for exploration and play. The Glen and The Grotto will be designed playspaces for 0–5 and 5–12-year-olds, respectively.
“I love The Heart in this plan,” says Brock. “It’s a place where you can be in the heart of our city and feel a sense of magic – in that center space people will be able to have so much fun and the buildings around will almost disappear.”
Recreational Fields – Three recreation pitches will anchor the south end of Montague Park. Unlike more traditional sports fields, these will feature terraced embankment bleachers along one edge and numerous shade trees throughout the area. CFC Foundation will program the fields with soccer, ultimate frisbee, and rugby. The public will also be able to access the fields when not in use by CFC.
As an architect, urban designer and parent, the unique approach to this portion of the park resonates with Myers.
“The more I chat with families like mine that take their kids to sporting events, the more I hear that the experiences make the parents and spectators feel awful while they’re there. This design takes quality experience for everyone into account. No matter what time of day or year, any person of any age can enjoy parts of this park.”
Planners estimate it will cost between $80 and $100 million and three to five years to bring this vision for Montague Park to life. It’s a worthy investment when one considers the long-term impact the park will have on Chattanooga and the region.
“With this plan, Reed Hilderbrand helped us find a way to invite nature back into the site in a way that could be representative of a great new Southern American landscape,” says Myers. “It isn’t all just a sports field and it isn’t all just trails and trees – it’s a beautiful mixture of both. I believe that’s where we are headed with the new urbanism of the South.”
Explore the complete Montague Park Plan online at MontaguePark.com.