MLK Boulevard bounces back

Authored By Chloé Morrison

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The Bessie Smith Strut brings blues, brews, barbecue and hundreds of people to MLK Boulevard every year during Riverbend. (Photo: Staff)

In 2012, East Martin Luther King Boulevard wasn’t a super happening place. What had once been Ninth Street, and called The Big Nine, had lost its vibe. During the segregation era, the area was home to many black-owned shops, offices and entertainment venues. But the end of segregation and changing traffic patterns, among other factors, eventually altered the once bustling boulevard and it fell largely into disrepair for years. It wasn’t until a couple of years after The Great Recession and after the rebirth of areas such as Chattanooga’s Southside that developers and business owners started to come to the area, which is now poised for more growth. Now, retail shops, apartments, restaurants and breweries have returned to the area. Local small business owners are investing in the district, and events, such as the Levitt Amp Chattanooga music series, presented by Jazzanooga, are drawing music fans to the historic street, which is just blocks away from UTC’s nearly 12,000 students. The city of Chattanooga has also focused efforts on improving the boulevard’s traffic flow, recently making changes in an effort to slow drivers. East MLK Boulevard intersects with downtown’s major streets Market and Broad. The corner of MLK and Market is a hub for activities from the summer music series Nightfall to the cycling event River Gorge Omnium. And nearby King Street is now undergoing major changes, including a new hotel, brewery, office space and condos. The Bessie Smith Cultural Center provides a venue to learn about the area’s history as well as a location for other events, including private events, community meetings and concerts. If you need help navigating the changing district, we’ve got you covered. Where to eat: ?? ? Champy’s Chicken, 526 E. MLK Blvd. ? Memo’s Grill, 430 E. MLK Blvd. ? Uncle Larry’s Restaurant, 736 E. MLK Blvd. ? The Bitter Alibi, 825 Houston St. ?Two Sons Kitchen, 422. E. MLK Blvd. ?Douglas Heights Bakery, 426 E. MLK Blvd. ?? The Camp House, 149 E. MLK Blvd. (It also turns into a music and private event space after hours and has church services on Sundays.) Where to drink: ?Hutton & Smith Brewing Co., 431 E. MLK Blvd. ?The Fix Lounge, 825 Houston St. (It’s part of The Bitter Alibi, which is also a good place to drink.) ? Oddstory Brewing Co., 336 E. MLK Blvd. ? Barley Chattanooga, 235 E. MLK Blvd. Where to play: ?JJ’s Bohemia, dive bar and music venue, 231 E. MLK Blvd. ?Coin-Op, arcade and bar, 322 E. MLK Blvd.

Little girl standing in a pumpkin patch.

In January 2016, more than 100 people gathered in 25-degree temperatures outside the Bessie Smith Cultural Center for the dedication of a new mural on Martin Luther King Boulevard. (Photo: Chloé Morrison)

Where to learn ?Bessie Smith Cultural Center, museum, 200 E. MLK Blvd. Where to shop: ? Cause Cloth, Upscale consignment shop, 301 E. MLK Blvd. ? 423 Francis, boutique clothing, 423 E. MLK Blvd. ? Grass Roots, CBD, holistic shop, 301 E. MLK Blvd. Coming soon: ? New apartments and additional retail are in the works.

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