Coalition to Save Lincoln Park

CCJ supports and stands with Lincoln Park residents and their neighborhood association as they use diverse tactics to resist gentrification and displacement fueled by public infrastructure projects and exclusive real-estate development.

The City plans to extend Central Avenue through the historic Black community, and through the site of the indigenous Muskogee town of Citico, and use the infrastructure to spur more exclusive real-estate construction for the benefit of Erlanger, UT Chattanooga, and developers. We stand by the people of Lincoln Park demanding justice and self-determination.

“The Coalition to Save Lincoln Park is a group of community organizations and individuals who are trying to save Chattanooga’s historic African-American park, Lincoln Park, from being destroyed by a proposed extension of Central Avenue.”

For generations, Lincoln Park has been a gathering place for Black communities from across the South. During the Old Jim Crow era, the park included a carnival, zoo, soul food restaurant, recreation center, the largest swimming pool open to African Americans in the region, and baseball fields where the Negro Leagues played. It was the site of Howard High School’s football games for many years.

For decades, black families from across the South, including major cities like Atlanta and Nashville, would travel to Lincoln Park for picnics, swimming, ball games, and family reunions. Lincoln Park’s recreation center was the site of the first public preschool programs for Black children in Chattanooga.

The residents of the neighborhood have a history of uniting to preserve, protect, and beautify their homes, despite encroachment by private enterprises and public construction projects.

Erlanger, UTC, River City Company, and Unum have plans in the works to redevelop and gentrify the area with disregard for the folks already living in the neighborhood and with absolutely no community oversight.

In a 2015 Times Free Press article, it was reported that “within a decade, these and other Chattanooga institutions hope to see the heavily-trafficked commuter highway transformed into a lively, “urban” boulevard that is its own after-work destination. They want to see housing along the strip, interspersed with retail and eateries, maybe even a hotel.”

Showing the value these city and private leaders place on Black people and communities, Bruce Komiske, Erlanger Health System’s vice president of new hospital construction, stated “We need to bring life to this street” in the paper. This vantage point erases Black communities and treats Black people, history, and culture as disposable.

Chattanoogans are not new to these “revitalization” projects, and our city has a long history of displacing working class Black communities for the benefit of White economies.

It is unjust for elected officials and corporate board members that are not accountable to Lincoln Park to make decisions that drastically affect the lives of of its’ residents. Lincoln Park’s status has always been dictated by backroom deals within the white power structure.

We remember and lift up the mass displacement and harm that built Chattanooga’s “Southside,” or the ongoing gentrification of Hill City, Highland Park, and half a dozen other neighborhoods where generational communities are being dismembered.

We know from these experiences that the plans of the City, Erlanger, and UTC are not for the people of Lincoln Park- but for the settlers the city plans to replace them with.

At an Oct. 3rd 2016 meeting where Lincoln Park residents- flanked by CCJ, SWAGG Management, and the Southern Movement Alliance- confronted Erlanger board members about this relationship, they said there would be a meeting in the near future between the board and Chattanooga Mayor to determine the future of the park grounds. On Oct. 3rd, Erlanger Chief Administrative Officer Greg Gentry wouldn’t say when the meeting would take place, but implied that it would be a closed door meeting without community leadership.