City Council is considering a project that would finance an extension to Martin Luther King Boulevard. (Photo: Staff)

City Council addressed two big issues that could have a significant impact on the local economy during its most recent meeting Tuesday.

The first, discussed primarily during the Economic and Community Development Committee meeting, regards a proposed tax increment financing project for an extension to downtown’s Martin Luther King Boulevard.

City Council also passed an ordinance that will eventually help improve downtown cellphone reception and pave the way for future technological advances.

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Martin Luther King Boulevard extension
The TIF project would allow the city to set aside some of its future tax revenue to build out MLK Boulevard to the riverfront.

Leaders hope that making this area more attractive and accessible will draw more businesses and residents to the area.

This TIF has been criticized by some community members.

Local organization Accountability for Taxpayer Money founder Helen Burns Sharp questioned why future tax revenue should pay for the project.

District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert, District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson and District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd all asked Deputy Administrator for Economic Development Cherita Allen why the extension needed to be funded through a TIF agreement.

Gilbert asked why the extension could not be part of the 21st-century waterfront project.

City representatives said that the TIF would allow construction to begin while still being able to work on other ongoing projects.

They also said that no other projects could be financed with the 21st-century waterfront project until the original loans for the project have been paid off.

A full presentation on the MLK extension TIF project is set to take place during an Economic and Community Development Committee meeting Feb. 13.

The presentation will include more details on the project.

City Council is scheduled to vote on the TIF Feb. 20.

Telecommunication improvements
City Council also passed an ordinance on final reading that officials said will eventually help improve downtown cellphone reception and pave the way for future technological advances.

The ordinance regulates how new telephone poles, which officials call “smart poles,” can be added to downtown areas. These smart poles function as typical telephone poles but will use small cells to boost signals in areas with high-density populations in an effort to make cellphone service and 4G connections stronger in downtown areas.

District 3 Councilman Ken Smith, who sponsored this ordinance, said that this will make Chattanooga a prime location to test new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, as they are developed. He also said that some companies have even begun to look at Chattanooga as a possible testing location for 5G cellular networks.

“As we start to get to some of those other technologies, they will be able to come to Chattanooga because we’ve got the infrastructure in place for some of these to broaden,” he said.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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