Rick Montague Tells The Chattanooga Story at Seaside Institute Oct 16

October 8, 2015 by SoWal Staff

Long-time Seaside homeowner Rick Montague will be the Seaside Institute’s featured speaker at its Spend an Evening program on Friday, October 16 during homeowners’ weekend. Montague will talk about the revitalization of his hometown, Chattanooga, Tenn. He will discuss the practices used to engage the public in the process and the subsequent results. This will be followed by an open discussion and reception with a Tennessee-inspired menu, including whiskey tastings. Tickets available online now.

His work began in the early 1980s at the Lyndhurst Foundation, where he was appointed its first executive director and president. During that time the foundation and the recovery of Chattanooga have been and remain intertwined.

As a graduate of the University of Virginia and a resident of the Lawn at the center of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, Montague became acutely aware of the influence of architecture and the elevation of the public realm in the making of place. As a result, Lyndhurst began to experiment with citizen-based city planning establishing a tradition which has grown and now thrives within the ethos of Chattanoogans who regularly turn out of 300-400 participants for charrettes led by emerging architects.

In 1982, Montague was appointed jointly by the city and the county to lead an economic development and conservation plan that was to focus upon the 20-mile corridor of the Tennessee River and the revitalization of the downtown. This effort took three years, 65 public meetings in locations all over the city and county, and has resulted not only in billions of dollars of development, but also a dramatic change in the way that residents and outsiders view the city; Outside Magazine just named Chattanooga “The Best Town Ever.”

Following the acceptance of the downtown and riverfront plan in 1986, Montague and three others created Chattanooga Venture to institutionalize the spirit of public participation. Its fabled “Vision 2000” involved more than 2,000 participants in open forums where everyone was welcome to bring their ideas for bettering the city. The practical result was a commitment portfolio of some 50 projects, large and small, all of which Montague says have now been successfully addressed.

Montague was also an appointee of Florida Governor Lawton Childs to the South Walton Conservation and Development Trust and was chair of the Southern Environmental Leadership Award board for 10 years. He later received the 2014 James S. Dockery, Jr. Southern Environmental Leadership Award, which recognizes leaders at the state and local levels that have helped build excellent environmental institutions. Most recently, he and his wife Cannon have served as board members of the Chattanooga History Center and co-chaired its capital campaign.

Montague’s presentation will focus on The Chattanooga Story. This will be followed by an open discussion where others can share ways they have engaged in promoting civic life in their hometowns.

A reception featuring foods and drinks from the Tennessee region will follow. Tickets available online now.

Rick Montague sold his Seaside house to his son two years ago. He and his wife, Cannon, now have a home in Watercolor, as well as a Seaside foothold in the Academic Village with Montague Cottage. 

This article by Scott Camp was published in the September/October issue of the Seaside Times.


The Seaside Institute brings together the best thinkers and practitioners in the field of New Urbanism to discuss and debate at the highest level. Like-minded organizations are linked together so that they can learn from one another. The necessary tools to improve the way communities are formed and developed are then shared with the Institute’s partners through collaboration.

Chattanooga has a lot of energy and has grown quite a lot over the last 20 years - it's Tennessee's 4th largest city. It's walkable and friendly. Small pockets of development and redevelopment can be seen everywhere. See more photos in the SoWal Community Forum from a recent visit to the city.



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