Introducing: The Metro Ideas Lab

Most public policy think tanks aren’t exactly accessible. They’re often located on an upper-level floor of a downtown high-rise or on the campus of a prestigious university. We aim to do something a little different.

The Metro Ideas Lab is the new headquarters for the Metro Ideas Project. Beyond just being an office space for our researchers, we have set out to build and foster an entirely collaborative space for government and communities to work together on solving public sector challenges.

We will be located on the border of some of Chattanooga’s most historic neighborhoods — including Glenwood, Ridgedale, Southside and Highland Park — occupying retail space in the newly-restored Wheelhouse building on East Main Street. Inside an old hosiery factory, the light-filled space will serve as both a workspace and a venue for future policy-focused events, activities and forums.

This will be a new home for civic innovators, researchers, social entrepreneurs, government employees and engaged residents to address problems and challenges in their city — together.

Moreover, we’re working with Plus Coffee to reinforce our commitment to creating a warm, beautiful and inviting atmosphere. In our minds, the partnership is a natural fit, and we couldn’t be more excited to work with their team to realize this unique vision. Through it, we see the possibility for a new model for how urban research is conducted — in a shared community space, over coffee, with everyone invited to participate.

Our team aims for the space to be a focusing lens, a hub and a resource for people who want to engage with their community across disciplines through policy and research. But beyond planned projects and work, we hope this new location sparks new ideas, unintended conversations and unexpected relationships that drive our city forward.

We plan to open the space to the public in mid-February. Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for launch details, soft-open hours and upcoming events.

Joda Thongnopnua

Executive director

Joda Thongnopnua has a background in communications and advertising. He worked with major retail brands, international non-governmental organizations, and startups prior to founding the Metro Ideas Project in 2016.