published Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

BlueCross BlueShield sells 'Gold Building'

  • photo
    File photo of the old BlueCross BlueShield building at 801 Pine Street. The golden glass structure opened for business in 1970.
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber

One of downtown Chattanooga's landmark buildings has a new owner, and its future use may include more than office space.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has sold its former signature headquarters, nicknamed the "Gold Building" for its reflective gold windows, to a company headed by Chattanooga real estate developers Ken and Bryon DeFoor.

Bryon DeFoor said Tuesday a decision isn't final on their plans for the 10-story structure at 801 Pine St. near U.S. Highway 27.

"A lot of options are on the table," he said. "We'll try to make a decision in the next 30 days."

Some ideas mentioned by others for the building's future use include not just offices but mixing in residential or retail space. Turning the structure into a hotel also has been suggested.

The purchase price was $6.15 million, according to an official. Early on, the structure was listed for $11.4 million.

Dan Jacobson, vice president of properties and corporate services for BlueCross, said the sale is good for the DeFoors, BlueCross and the city.

"When we decided to build our new headquarters, we chose to stay in Chattanooga's business district, and now we're pleased to be able to provide space for other businesses to set up shop downtown, which will help attract even more people to Chattanooga," he said.

The Chattanooga-based health insurer put the building, which opened in 1970, on the market in September 2007.

Designed by famed Atlanta architect John Portman, the building became expendable with the opening of BlueCross' new $299 million home office on nearby Cameron Hill.

David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp., which handled the sale with Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., said the structure probably is the most recognized in the city.

But the building came on the market at about the time of the recession and banking crisis, he said. DeVaney said there were multiple offers but "financing for an empty building was very difficult to get."

Kim White, who heads the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said the locally based DeFoors understand the building's importance to the central city.

"It's one of the iconic buildings in downtown Chattanooga," she said.

White said the building could hold offices and residences, though likely not apartments. She, too, mentioned it as a possible hotel location.

"There is potential for all of that," White said.

DeVaney said there are multiple options such as offices, residences, retail stores and a hotel.

"It has great views," he said.

Mary Thompson-Danielson of BlueCross said the deal was finalized Tuesday. She said the DeFoors are expected to take possession of the building by the end of the year.

The only other downtown space BlueCross continues to own, aside from its current home office, is the Miller Brothers building and a garage at the corner of Market and East Sixth streets, she said.

The deal involving the Gold Building is the second key downtown office purchase in the past six months.

Chestnut Tower, one of the city's tallest buildings at Chestnut and Sixth streets, is getting a $20 million revamp after it was bought by a company led by Chattanooga businessman Jim Berry.

The Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel law firm will shift its offices from Tallan Financial Center to the building and become what is now Liberty Tower's flagship tenant, Berry said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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