Road Work on Glass Street : The Barlew Blog

David Barlew Architects is a Chattanooga-based architecture firm founded in 1978 by David Barlew, Sr. Our diverse practice has experience in the design and renovation of mixed-use developments, schools, offices, commercial centers and medical facilities. Local projects designed by David Barlew Architects in the past 5 years include Renaissance Square, a two story, mixed-use building completed in 2008 on Martin Luther King Boulevard by The 28th Legislative District Community Development Corporation; the Temporary Twelve-Bed Intensive Care Unit at Erlanger Hospital; Sing It Or Wing It, a karaoke bar and restaurant in downtown Chattanooga (interior design by Christi Homar); and the Auditorium Building Renovation and Addition at Cleveland State Community College for the Tennessee Board of Regents. David Barlew Architects has also volunteered time for the Brainerd Road Corridor Master Plan, a nearly three year long community-led initiative to improve the Brainerd Community of Chattanooga.

David Barlew Architects, Inc. is a member of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Road Work on Glass Street

by David Barlew, Jr. on 08/19/13

Attention Ahead! Big changes are coming to Glass Street!               

After more than a year of continuous hard work by a dedicated team of neighborhood residents, design professionals, city officials, and community organizers, Glass Street is being retrofitted with new sidewalks, new tree wells, and new pedestrian lighting!

In a first phase of streetscaping improvements, Glass Street is getting a make-over!

These significant public infrastructure improvements by the City of Chattanooga constitute a remarkable accomplishment for Glass House Collective and its partners and mark a turning point in the story of one of Chattanooga's most storied streets. They also illustrate the incredible power of citizens to make a difference in their community.

To mark this momentous time of change in East Chattanooga, Tennessee's very unofficial state flower, the orange construction barrel, is blooming all over Glass Street. These "blooms" herald the replacement of existing sidewalks along Glass Street and North Chamberlain Avenue.

Along Glass Street, the infrastructure improvements will take place between Awtry Street at the east end of the Glass Street commercial corridor and continue to Wheeler Avenue to the west. Similar street modifications will occur on Chamberlain Avenue between Appling Street and a point just south of the Glass Street/ Chamberlain Avenue intersection.

The new public streetscape infrastructure will completely change the appearance of Glass Street for the better. But, more importantly, the hope is that the benefits born out of this work will be more than just cosmetic. With any luck, this significant investment of time, money, and labor by the City of Chattanooga will encourage similar investment by the business community. The public sector is beginning a conversation of sorts by paving new sidewalks, planting new trees, and installing new lights; perhaps encouraged by the City's initial investment, the private sector will respond by renovating existing structures, leasing available space, and opening new enterprises.


As part of this work, tree wells are being installed in the area to provide a place for trees without taking up necessary space for pedestrians on the sidewalks. In addition, these tree wells will serve to demarcate parallel parking areas while potentially slowing traffic by narrowing the open expanse of asphalt on the roadway. The trees planted along Glass Street will play into a repeating and regular rhythm that also includes the light poles and parallel parking area punctuated down the length of Glass Street.

As I write this post, the work on Glass Street is underway, and it is progressing rapidly.

Like the facades improvement project I blogged about earlier this summer, the street improvements along Glass Street were also born out of the community meetings that Glass House Collective, Shawanna Kendrick, and I hosted in the late summer and fall of 2012. In those meetings, local residents, business operators, and property owners communicated to us that they wanted to feel safer on Glass Street: safer from the traffic that speeds so close to Glass Street's narrow and unprotected sidewalks and safer from the crime that can happen when people aren't looking and things are not well lit. But, these involved neighbors from around Glass Street wanted more than just safety. As the meetings continued, it became clear that Glass Street's residents and neighbors wanted Glass Street to be clean, safe, and inviting. Over time, "clean, safe, and inviting" became the mantra, which would guide Glass Street's future. Part of making Glass Street "clean, safe, and inviting" meant getting people---pedestrians---on the street, and that meant that Glass Street, with its narrow, barren sidewalks, was going to have to change. As Glass House Collective's productive series of neighborhood meetings drew to a close, I was tasked with devising a new schematic streetscape for Glass Street.

At the outset, I contacted Sarah Weeks, Senior Planner with the City's Community Design Group. She provided me with incredible, detailed maps of East Chattanooga: figure ground representations, satellite views, street maps, and land use over lays. These drawings contain vast stores of information about property lines, set-backs, and right-of-ways that were necessary for schematically designing the streetscape for Glass Street.

The matter of scope came up early in the process, and deciding where to start and stop the recommended streetscape improvements was one of the first design decisions to be made. In the neighborhood discussions, residents defined the Glass Street District as filling the area from Missionary Ridge to the railroad tracks and from Campbell Street to Dodson Avenue. An enormous area!

Following the very wise advice of John Bridger, Executive Director of the Regional Planning Agency, and Karen Hundt, Director of the City's Community Design Group, Glass House Collective and I decided to limit our initial design scope to the commercial corridor between Awtry Street and Wheeler Avenue. Addressing any larger an area, reasoned John and Karen, would dilute our resources and actually result in less of an impact.



I began the design process by dividing the design area between Awtry Street and Wheeler Avenue into quadrants, envisioning each parcel of land as an independent commercial property development. For each quadrant, I took into consideration vehicle parking ratios, bicycle parking facilities, and building density. I also considered public green space, occupiable outdoor space, and public art sites for each parcel.

I tried to balance the components of each parcel. And, I chose to explore these components by hand, sketching each development in pencil. 


To encourage pedestrian activity in the district, it is important to have a high density of uses and occupancy types within a walkable distance. But, over-building has many negative consequences and should be avoided. Similarly, vehicle parking is a necessity in modern America, but too much parking can make an area feel suburban in character.

As I developed the schematic streetscaping plan, I established a number of rules for the district, most of which dealt with placing the safety of the pedestrian over the convenience of the motorist. According to the rules for this plan, off-street vehicle parking should be to the side or rear of any development, rather than in the front; on-street parallel parking should be provided for each development; and, on-street perpendicular parking is only permitted up to a maximum of eight cars. I calculated parking ratios for each parcel in the design area, keeping the ratio of parking between three and four cars per thousand square feet of leasable area.

Other rules concerned trees and tree cover in the Glass Street District. To make Glass Street more inviting, I called for trees to be spaced at sixty feet on center along Glass Street between Awtry Street and Wheeler Avenue. The trees alternate with pedestrian lighting and parallel parking areas at the same sixty foot interval, creating a repetitive rhythm on the street.



Ultimately, I compiled the rough pencil sketches into a final, hand drawn streetscaping plan for the Glass Street District; it was unveiled officially at the Glass House Collective Christmas Party in early December of last year.  The schematic streetscaping plan recommends locations for pedestrian lighting, on-street parking, public art installations, pedestrian seating, and bus stops. It also illustrates potential sites for new development, public green space, and occupiable outdoor space.

After I had completed the schematic streetscaping plan, Glass House Collective received incredible news: the City of Chattanooga had seen the plan, approved of most of its recommendations, and intended to implement many of the plan's components!

Image provided by the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works

In the Spring of 2013, Justin Howell and Fritz Brogdon, Civil Engineers with the City of Chattanooga, began work on the construction documents for a complete renovation of Glass Street. Justin and Fritz did the very hard work of turning the schematic ideas produced for Glass House Collective into hard drawings with details and dimensions. With Glass Street's narrow proportions and numerous existing structures, this was no easy task.

Image provided by the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works

Image provided by the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works

Image provided by the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works

Justin and Fritz were kind enough to allow me to post some of their drawings on this blog. The drawings are subject to change, but, for the most part, they show what will be installed on Glass Street during this first phase of streetscaping work.

These drawings are the preliminary versions of the Construction Documents used to actually construct all of the work discussed in this post. Without this invaluable contribution of professional assistance provided by the Civil Engineers with the City's Department of Public Works, none of these exciting improvements would be possible. The engineers have done a great service to Glass Street and East Chattanooga, and their contribution cannot be overstated.


Construction is still underway on Glass Street and seeing it take place feels like a huge milestone has been reached. The installation of lights and trees and sidewalks on Glass Street is one of Glass House Collective's most significant accomplishments. It is also a tremendous success for Glass House's many partners, Glass Street's nearby residents, and the district's local business owners. This exciting work points to a coming resurgence in East Chattanooga---and, one that is just beginning.

Watch out ahead: big changes are coming to Glass Street!


Written by David Barlew, Jr.

Unless otherwise noted, photographs are by David Barlew, Jr.

Permission to display the drawings by the City of Chattanooga solely for informational purposes was granted verbally by Fritz Brogdon. These drawings are the property of Fritz Brogdon and the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works and shall remain under the copyright of Fritz Brogdon and the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works. These drawings may not be reproduced, transmitted, or copied without the permission of Fritz Brogdon and the City of Chattanooga Department of Public Works. The drawings are preliminary and subject to change and may not be used for construction of any kind.

Comments (2)

1. Tracey Barker said on 8/22/13 - 12:03PM
Wow, what an outstanding achievement for the community!
2. David Barlew, Jr. said on 8/22/13 - 12:19PM
It really is! So many people have worked so hard to make these improvements a reality. It's amazing how a dedicated group of people can accomplish so much.

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