In a survey of more than 600 UTC students, the results revealed the connections between the University and downtown Chattanooga could be strengthened. While many students who participated in the survey described the city with words like “lively,” “clean,” “beautiful,” and “welcoming,” they also offered suggestions to make downtown more appealing to the college crowd.
“We found that many students love Chattanooga. They enjoy Chattanooga’s art scene and the parks they can access. On the other hand, they describe Chattanooga as inconvenient, unsafe, and boring,” Joe Ellis, one of the UTC students that helped compile the survey, said.
Ellis and his classmates in the downtown marketing practicum course organized the survey. The instructor for the course was Aaron Petticord. They were assisted by the UTC College of Business, Idea Channel, Taziki’s Cafe, the Johnson Group, River City Company, the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Council.
The survey illuminated issues that could be improved to make downtown more attractive to students, including safety, convenience, and affordability.
“Safety was a surprise and led us down a path that eventually painted a clear picture of what keeps many students from regularly walking to the downtown area: dead zones,” Ellis said.
The student group described these “dead zones” as dark, inactive sections of the city that can occupy a portion of a block or several blocks.
“These dead zones are created by parking lots and large buildings that exist on every street between campus and downtown to create a literal barrier between students and downtown life,” Ellis said.
Students also listed the need for more affordable grocery, dining, and entertainment options.
“Students feel downtown Chattanooga is built to accommodate tourists. The shops and restaurants are expensive, and few of those establishments promote the university like one might see in other college towns,” Ellis said.
“Students found the thought of living downtown to be very appealing. It would be close to campus, activities, and jobs. However, the current cost of living downtown and the expense of downtown activities are inconvenient for students,” he continued.
The group offered some suggestions to help correct the problems, including smartphone app and more attractions and businesses aimed at students.
“The app could increase the visibility of UTC’s downtown partners and what they are offering to students. It would list all partner locations and student discounts/promotions, and updates. Regular reminders could be pushed out to students and the information would be right on their phone,” Ellis said.
The students also recommended turning the “dead zones” into lively attractions for students.
“An opportunity exists to build what we are calling the “UTC Downtown District” with mixed use buildings containing affordable housing, retail, commercial, and open spaces. This district could create a street that regularly sees the faces of the 11,000 and growing student population as they socialize, shop and create value in an active, urban community that bridges the gap that currently exists between campus and downtown,” Ellis said.