published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Cleveland deciding whether to accept gift of multimillion-dollar First Tennessee Bank office building

The First Tennessee Bank building in Cleveland, Tenn.
The First Tennessee Bank building in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Harrison Keely /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The City Council is taking two weeks to consider the gift of a multimillion-dollar office building.

The former First Tennessee Bank office building at 775 Raider Drive NW was offered by Cleveland Development Enterprises II LLC.

But council members said Monday there is no paperwork yet regarding the offer. And they want some answers before making a decision.

Speaking to some downtown advocates at Monday's council meeting, Mayor Tom Rowland and Councilman Richard Banks reaffirmed their commitment to keeping city government downtown.

"I have always been a downtown person," Rowland said.

Banks brought to the meeting a list of 10 questions he picked up from residents over the weekend.

"There was some alarm that we would have an exodus from the downtown area," he said.

Among those were the overall condition and utility/maintenance costs on the building, whether this would be a step toward local government consolidation, whether there are any restrictions on the gift and what would be the impact on Raider Drive traffic with Cleveland High School across the street.

Those questions need answers before a decision is made, Councilman Bill Estes said.

Rowland said he and City Manager Janice Casteel have been negotiating details of the gift.

"One thing we wanted to make absolutely clear is there would be no restrictions," the mayor said.

He said there should be no restrictions, and that the city could use, sell or lease the building as it pleases.

Banks said the council needs to see legal work on the gift before making a decision. He said city school system officials are interested in the property, perhaps as a replacement for a cramped administration building.

"If it's free, we should take it," Councilman Charlie McKenzie said.

Contact Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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