This rendering shows plans for the new park. (Rendering: BWSC)

This afternoon, Alton Park community leaders and city and county officials broke ground at the long-vacant Charles A. Bell Elementary School site, which will be turned into a new neighborhood park and gathering place.

“Parks impact quality of life in a number of ways, from helping make neighborhoods safer and more active to providing a place for kids to play and neighbors to meet and exchange ideas,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said in a prepared statement. “Our investment in Alton Park will revitalize a long-vacant site, turning it into an attractive amenity that will help strengthen property values for the residents who proudly call Alton Park home.”

The former school closed in 1989 and became an eyesore and potential safety concern, so the county-owned building was demolished in 2011.

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The city took over the site in 2014, and Alton Park community members worked with the city and Councilman Chris Anderson to imagine a new green space that could enhance the area and provide a place for recreation and gathering, according to a news release.

“It’s a great project for our neighborhood and really going to be an improvement to the community and good for our community,” Alton Park resident and neighborhood leader Rosemary Porter said, according to a prepared statement. “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad to see it’s on the way.”

City officials shared renderings today, which show plans for a quarter-mile walking path, open lawn for community activities, benches, and a pavilion with picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountain.

“The community has wanted this for years, and it’s a project I’ve been working on since before I was even on the City Council,” Anderson said, according to a prepared statement. “I’m so thrilled that we are finally able to make such a massive investment in Alton Park, and I will continue to work with area residents and leaders to bring more projects that lift up the community.”

A public input meeting to gather name ideas from community members is planned for Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at The Bethlehem Center. It’s one of multiple public input sessions with community members who have been engaged in the development and design of the park.

Berke allocated $1 million in capital funds in fiscal year 2015 to transform the site, and in late December, City Council approved a contract with P&C Construction, which was on-site today moving earth and digging footers for the new park.

After weather delays, construction began in late January and is expected to be complete this summer.

For more information, click here.

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