Blythe Oldfield is known as “the neighborhood that built Cleveland” because of its industrial history in the city. It is a neighborhood in the southeast quadrant of Cleveland, Tennessee, a small city north of Chattanooga. As the first planned neighborhood in Cleveland, Blythe Oldfield housed a population of workers who supported the downtown manufacturing economy. Even so, Blythe Oldfield has always been physically and experientially disconnected from downtown; an abandoned factory site and freight railroad tracks with only one crossing render this neighborhood isolated from its greater city.
City Fields is a local non-profit organization which hired Michael Watkins Architect, LLC to lead a charrette in January of 2018 to propose a master plan for the neighborhood. Through the five focus areas of physical revitalization, social revitalization, economic development, neighborhood safety and leadership development, City Fields invests in the well-being of Blythe Oldfield while maintaining a commitment to the quality of life of the existing residents. The organization is passionate about creating value without displacing the current residents of the neighborhood. The design charrette was a week-long, open process which invited neighbors and city officials alike to share their opinion on how the neighborhood might improve. Prevailing requests among the attendees include more civic spaces, improved walkability and connection to downtown Cleveland. One resident even said, “People from Cleveland don’t come to this neighborhood anymore; I’d like to see that change.” The charrette team presented before-and-after proposals of thoroughfares and potential public spaces, utilizing the unbuildable floodplain to create public parks and proposing a trail network throughout the neighborhood to provide a safe walk to school. On the abandoned factory site, the charrette team proposed a regional park which reconnects the neighborhood to downtown and provides a destination for people outside the neighborhood.