UPDATE: City seeking public input for Coolidge Park for Medal of Honor museum
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Should Chattanooga lease part of Coolidge Park for Medal of Honor museum?
That's the question that City of Chattanooga officials are asking the public to help answer at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 6:00pm at the Chattanooga Theatre Center.
Also attending will be the Trust for the Public Land, park planners and residents.
Officials with the Charles H. Coolidge Heritage Center are asking to lease a portion of Coolidge Park from the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County in order to build a two-story museum.
But there has been a surprising amount of push-back from the public. Some have said the building will take up too much green space and will block the view of the river.
Volunteers with the Heritage Center said they want to set the record straight before Wednesday's public meeting.
"It's located in the most infrequently used portion of the park, professional land planners suggested this when they say it will complete the park," said Chairman of the Medal of Honor Heritage Center Bill Raines.
In 1945, 10.3 acres of riverfront land was turned into Coolidge Park to honor Chattanooga's own Medal of Honor recipient, Charles H. Coolidge.
Now, the Medal of Honor Heritage Center wants to create a memorial on the city's land to further the Coolidge dedication.
"Then it became obvious though, this was an unfinished project, people didn't know who Coolidge Park was named after, they thought it was Calvin Coolidge," Raines said.
Currently, the Charles H. Coolidge Heritage Center is housed at Northgate Mall in Hixson, but the proposed move to Coolidge Park has come with some criticism.
"I'm completely for having the medal of honor museum moved, because it's in a small space currently, I just think there are other places downtown, which other people feel like too," said J.C. Thompson of Chattanooga.
But those making the construction plans say only a portion of the 2.25 acres of land will be disrupted.
"I think there's been some misunderstanding about the size of the Heritage Center, it's actually only 1/10th of an acre," said Jim Wade, Medal of Honor Heritage Center.
Because of the lack of public communication this far into the project, City Council members want the community to speak their mind at Wednesday night's meeting.
Volunteers with the heritage center hope to win over the public's trust in honoring and remembering those who served.
"I've got five children, I understand wanting to play and in green space, but also understand the sacrifices that others have made that we've got this freedom," Raines said.
The request asks to lease 6,800 square feet next to the cul-de-sac at the end of Tremont Street in Coolidge Park. The agreement, if approved, would be a lease of $1 for 99 years.
The Medal of Honor Heritage Center says the site would further honor Charles H. Coolidge as a Medal of Honor recipient and act as a memorial by reflecting the Heritage of the Medal of Honor.