by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 01, 2009

This web-exclusive article accompanied Renewed Interest by Cheryl-Anne Sturken (M&C, February 2009), about value destinations.

Once considered one the country's most polluted cities, a result of its metals manufacturing industry, Chattanooga, Tenn., has since become a poster child for eco-friendly destinations amid more than $2 billion and two decades of downtown development. The city recently took the number-three spot on RelocateAmerica's top 100 places to live.

As part of Chattanooga's massive $120 million Waterfront Redevelopment project, which included a $30 million expansion of the Tennessee Aquarium and a $20 million expansion of the Hunter Museum of Art, more than 22 miles of once inaccessible riverfront have been reclaimed for public use, and a fleet of electric shuttle buses runs between downtown hotels, restaurants and attractions. This also is a very walkable and cycle-friendly city, with pedestrian-only bridges, trails, and passageways connecting the city to the riverfront and 28 miles of bike trails.

Central to the city's downtown revitalization was the $50,000 expansion and greening of the Chattanooga Convention Center -- the facility uses natural light, fresh-air ventilation and a rooftop system that collects rainwater for irrigation -- which increased total exhibit space to 100,800 square feet. 

Other projects abound. Construction is under way on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's new $300 million headquarters and on the state's first LEED-certified, mixed-use development. Last July, German automaker Volkswagen, citing Chattanooga's commitment to the environment, announced it had chosen the city as the place to build its new $1 billion assembly plant, which it expects to be fully operational by 2011.

Chattanooga also is in the midst of a lodging boom, with six new hotels poised to open by year-end 2010, including a 120-room Hotel Indigo, a 134-room Hampton Inn and a 109-suite Residence Inn with 5,000 square feet of meeting space. In addition, the new 186-room Doubletree Hotel Chattanooga opened last November with 11,000 square feet of meeting space.

Contact: Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, (800) 322-3344;