Fish-powered revitalization coming to a distressed Chattanooga neighborhood?

Can a few thousand fish pull a neighborhood together?

Lisa Davis, president of the East Lake Neighborhood Association, thinks it — plus other improvements to the community’s park — is worth a try.

So does the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Lyndhurst Foundation, which are splitting $800,000 in costs to refurbish East Lake Park.

The park — home to the city’s first zoo, and once a destination for residents and visitors — is the centerpiece of a what used to be a solidly middle-class community at the foot of Missionary Ridge.

But it has fallen on hard times. The cottages and bungalows that can sell for several hundred thousand dollars in revived city neighborhoods sell for much less in East Lake — in the $24,000 to $110,000 range.

Crime, especially that associated with drugs and gangs, has spread. Before the city put a stop to it, some landlords chopped houses into a mishmash of poorly maintained apartments.

Neighborhood association members and those working with them hope the park’s renovation will be the catalyst for a better neighborhood.

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