When you’ve visited Downtown lately, you’ve probably noticed friendly people in bright orange shirts cleaning and greeting visitors. Those orange-clad folks are Ambassadors for the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance (DCA), and their jobs are to keep downtown clean, inviting, beautiful and safe.
That takes many forms, from cleaning to supporting unhoused individuals to helping Downtown visitors, all inside the Business Improvement District (BID) — the area of Downtown that the Downtown Chattanooga Alliance champions and focuses on.
And the Ambassadors take the job seriously.
“I see progress immediately. That’s the nice thing about pressure washing,” says DCA Ambassador Jacob. “Plus I get to be outside all day cleaning and helping people; that’s why I like being an Ambassador.”
Chattanooga’s BID boundaries are roughly the Tennessee River to the north, Highway 27 to the west, 11th Street to the south, and a combination of Georgia Avenue and Cherry Street to the east.
The Ambassadors’ work helps Chattanooga stand out to tourists as an especially friendly, easy-to-navigate destination. Jonathan Armstrong, Sales & Marketing Director at the Holiday Inn & Suites Downtown says his industry is all about experiences and the comfort associated with brands like Holiday Inn and its restaurant — Rodizio Grill.
“The BID and DCA play into that by creating a Downtown people want to experience,” Armstrong says. “What does your front doorstep look like? You want to look your best and it’s the same in regards to visitors coming to Chattanooga. DCA makes sure the doorstep to Chattanooga looks great. Creating a welcoming atmosphere that’s tidy and neat sets the tone.”
Over the last year the team of Ambassadors made 22,000 recommendations to Downtown visitors inside that footprint; removed 3,700 bags of trash; added 209 plants, trees and bushes; and completed 740 pressure washing hours. They also assisted community members experiencing homelessness through 415 in-depth engagements and 394 referrals for shelter and food.
“They’re a liaison between us business owners and the police when it comes to the homeless and panhandling,” says Chris Mosey, owner of Ignis Glass, a business inside the BID. “That’s the most important thing to me — where I’m located is a hub for (unhoused) people. If there’s an issue, I call the DCA and they’re real good about coming down – they have a rapport with those individuals that I don’t – so they respond better than they would to me. And I don’t have to call the cops — the BID is great about deescalating anything uncomfortable or with the potential for violence.”
In addition to supporting the unhoused and cleaning, DCA Ambassadors help Downtown visitors and tourists:
- Find parking
- Take group photos
- Walk safely to their cars
- Find things to do and places to eat
- Find cool places to take photos
- Locate businesses and services
“The most visual thing that I see them do is cleaning up, removing graffiti, throwing trash away …,” Mosey says. “The City doesn’t have the manpower to do all that, so the DCA backs up the City a bit which is good.”
For many Ambassadors, their work with the DCA represents a fresh start and new opportunity.
“The DCA gave me a chance when I needed one,” says Ambassador Allison. “I’ve been clean for three years, and now I get to help others connect with resources when they are struggling. I hear all the time that people love the work we’re doing and how much they enjoy Downtown. I feel good about what I’m doing every day.”
There is a square footage-based fee for businesses inside the BID to fund services, but most stakeholders say they’ve seen value for their investment. The DCA set its three priorities of a clean, welcoming and safe Downtown after a yearlong process where property owners, tenants and other community members expressed in stakeholder meetings and a survey what types of services they wanted the DCA to provide. Overwhelmingly, people stated they would like to see enhanced cleaning, safety and beautification services.
“I like the BID. I liked the idea from the beginning,” Mosey says. “Everyone was worried about it pushing up rent — my landlord has been good about it so I haven’t seen an increase, but even if I did, I probably wouldn’t be upset because they provide a great service and for what they do, the fee is justified.”
For Kathryn Warren, owner of Downtown nonprofit Art120, partnering with DCA enables her to keep more funds working toward her mission of broadening access to the arts in our community.
“DCA has helped us with street closures and barricades that really made our international market events possible,” Warren says. “In order to support burgeoning entrepreneurs, we keep the financial barrier low for booths at our markets so things like that can be expensive for us. DCA’s support helps our funds go further.”
DCA’s commitment to a vibrant, visitor-ready Downtown keeps our friendly city cleaner and more inviting for tourists, Downtown visitors and businesspeople.
“We’re not just about cleaning up,” says DCA Executive Director Steve Brookes. “In fact, we’re mainly about people. We help businesses thrive, provide job opportunities for our Ambassadors, support people experiencing homelessness, and ensure visitors have inviting Downtown experiences.”
How can you help? Buy a sandwich, grab a treat, and shop small to support the Downtown businesses that make our community dynamic.
Learn more about the DCA by visiting their website, here.