By Camm Ashford
The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga last Friday hosted a reception for community leaders, supporters and friends to make an announcement that will “reframe” its future.
The economic and social justice organization is set this week to close on a new 12,000-square foot, $3.8 million mixed-use development, located at the 400 block of E. Martin Luther King Boulevard. Nashville-based and Black-owned Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria restaurant will anchor the first floor of the building. The Urban League and other office tenants will occupy its second and third floors.
“Today, I am proud to announce that the Urban League will take its rightful place in the heart of this city,” Chattanooga Urban League President and CEO Candy Johnson told the crowd of around 60 invitation-only guests during a 4 p.m. outdoor reception at Proof Bar and Incubator, 422 E. Martin Luther King Blvd.
“This will be our new permanent headquarters. We’re reframing for the future of Chattanooga, the future of economic inclusion. But this is just the start.”
The Urban League currently rents a building at 730 E. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Johnson said a new permanent headquarters had long been a dream of former Urban League President Warren Logan, who died in January of last year.
“So this is an emotional moment,” Johnson shared. “It was a Warren Logan dream for us to have ownership in the heart of this city, where we can be a beacon of hope and light for large-scale Black success.”
Johnson said property ownership aligns with the Urban League’s mission statement.
“That’s the power piece that we talk about in our mission statement when we say ‘to enable African Americans, other ethnic minorities and disadvantaged persons to achieve economic self-reliance, parity and power,”’ she said.
“It is time for reframing our future, not only as a city, but also our organization. How can you have power without ownership? We are an economic development agency, so how can we help uplift the Black and Brown community if we don’t have ownership?”
John Edwards III, founder and president of the Chattanooga News Chronicle, said the Urban League’s new building will breathe life into the East Martin Luther King district. Once called “The Big 9” because it was formerly Ninth Street, Martin Luther King Boulevard for many years was the soul of Black entertainment in Chattanooga.
“She (Johnson) talked about reframing, so that implies that there was a frame before,” Edwards said. “And that frame was a spectacular frame. Martin Luther King was once an amazing street and place. That’s why projects like this are so important. We get to reframe, and we get to learn from our mistakes. And we can keep the legacy of those who came before us by building on that legacy.”
The Chattanooga News Chronicle has occupied an office at 611 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., since its founding in 1999
The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is an affiliate of the National Urban League, the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans and other underserved individuals to enter the economic and social mainstream. Since 1982, the Chattanooga affiliate has served many thousands of economically disadvantaged persons, individuals representing communities of color and minority-owned businesses.
For more information, visit www.ulchatt.net.