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The Tennessee Aquarium and 21st century waterfront.
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Chattanooga coffee mugs on display at retailer Locals Only.

Anyone paying attention to downtown Chattanooga over the last four years has probably noticed the $1 billion burst of hotels, condos and residential housing along the riverfront.

As one of Tennessee's fastest-growing cities continues to expand, Chattanoogans should keep their eye on another feature: a series of "mixed-use" corridors that allow residents to work, live and play in the same area.

At Pine and Chestnut streets, by the swanky Westin hotel, residents can peruse food trucks, see outdoor shows on the weekends, and pop into a series of retail shops.

Along Market Street, by the Chattanooga Choo Choo, residents have their pick of hyperlocal boutiques, restaurants, housing and attractions including Songbirds Guitar Museum, which contains one of the most premiere private guitar collections in the world.

M.L. King Boulevard is now home to a strip of craft breweries, musical venues, arcades and a mix of new and old restaurants. Within five years, developers want to line the refurbished street with more buildings that offer housing and retail options.

"Growing up here in Hixson, I don't have one memory of coming downtown, because there was no reason to," says Eric Landrum, who opened Locals Only Gifts with his wife, Danielle, in 2017. "And now, people want to be here and move in."

Fueled by private investments and city partnerships, this growth aims to keep residents interested in their surroundings and inspire them to walk from one corridor to another.

As the downtown population increases in tandem with development, experts say there could be an upside: leveled-out rental prices.

"We think market forces are going to come in and adjust the price," says Amy Donahue, marketing and communications director at River City Company, which studies the local market and plans development projects. "It won't be a drastic drop, but it'll level things out."

Others have questioned the negative effect development will have on Chattanooga's Westside, a majority, working-class black neighborhood of about 3,500 that's surrounded by restaurants and businesses.

"People just view this area as investments," then-resident David Prewitt said in May 2017, around the time prosecutors shut down a neighborhood convenience store for alleged criminal activity.

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Downtown Chattanooga comprises two ZIP codes: 37402 and 37403

Median household income: $11,958 in 37402; $39,911 in 37403

Population: 3,878 in 37402; 6,957 in 37403 (2016 estimates)

Median age: 33.8 in 37402; 20.7 in 37403

Racial breakdowns: 66% black in 37402; 74% white in 37403

Homeowners: 15% in Chattanooga's City Center and 5% in the Westside neighborhoods along Riverfront Parkway and M.L. King Boulevard. The overwhelming majority of people rent.

» Downtown Chattanooga is expected to have a roughly 50% population increase by 2020. To accommodate this boom, developers are working to build multifunctional spaces that mix work, residential and recreational space. The MLK District is expected to have the most new growth over the next five years.

Source: River City Company, NeighborhoodScout, American FactFinder

WHERE WE LIVE

Median home price: $208,000 in Chattanooga's City Center, with a 4.4% projected increase in the next year

Average rental price: $1,000 in the City Center and $770 in the Westside neighborhoods

Source: NeighborhoodScout, Zillow

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Tourists Lena Wiksen and Ollie Johansson of Fristad, Sweden, stroll past the Pickle Barrel.

DON'T MISS

Pickle Barrel

1012 Market St.

423-266-1103

A cheap, smoky mainstay of Chattanooga with a killer porch that's perfect for busy workers, shoppers and other punks.

The Westin's Sky Bar

801 Pine St.

423-531-4653

The cocktails are served with a breathtaking view of Chattanooga from the top of this full-service luxury hotel.

Easy Bistro

203 Broad St.

423-266-1121

Chef Erik Niel draws from his Louisiana roots and love for quality seafood meat for dishes including grilled oysters and smoked duck confit. Open for brunch and dinner, valet parking is offered on select nights.

The Coin-Op Arcade

233 E. M.L. King Blvd.

423-708-7492

Drink beer and play retro video games to your heart's content. The horror- and punk-inspired room has everything from old pinball games to Mario Kart and partner shooter standups.

Memo's Grill

430 E. M.L. King Blvd.

423-267-7283

Family owned and operated, Memo's is known for its chopped wiener plates, pit smoked barbecue, and the chicken salad ain't bad either. Perfect spot for a quick, peaceful lunch with a friend.

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Members of the Howard School marching band walk past a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. while lining up for a memorial parade and march along M.L. King Boulevard.

OUR SCHOOLS

Battle Academy (K-5)

Population: 370

Proficiency (TVAAS): 4/5 overall, 4/5 in literacy, 4/5 in numeracy

» A high-performing magnet school, Battle Academy is interested in equity-related programs: 45.5% of its students come from families that meet eligibility criteria as economically disadvantaged. In 2013, Battle was named a Magnet School of Excellence by Magnet Schools of America.

Brown Academy (preK-5)

Population: 315

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 3/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

» This magnet school is one of two in Chattanooga to pilot open enrollment, with spots handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, though no transportation is offered.

Orchard Knob Middle

Population: 417

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

» Orchard Knob is dedicated to pairing young students with mentors and community members through "State of Our Boys" summits. It's also one of 12 schools in the district's "Opportunity Zone" initiative to provide more staff, targeted support and a heightened urgency for improvement in the lowest-performing schools.

The Howard School

Population: 853

Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 2/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy

ACT scores: 15.4 composite, 14.1 in English, 16.1 in math, 14.6 in reading, 16.1 in science

» One of seven schools in Hamilton County that will be updated as part of a $200 million bond, Howard is slated to get a new stadium and track. It is also scheduled to have the Erlanger Institute for Healthcare and Innovation and the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism open by the end of the 2017-18 school year as part of the district's Future Ready initiative to equip local students with directly transferable career skills.

Source: 2017 State Report Card

*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.

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