published Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Parking problem at proposed downtown Chattanooga apartments challenges developers


by Cliff Hightower
The Chattanooga Bank Building at Eighth and Market streets, slated to be part of a new apartment complex, faces parking challenges.
The Chattanooga Bank Building at Eighth and Market streets, slated to be part of a new apartment complex, faces parking challenges.
Photo by John Rawlston.

ABOUT THE BUILDING

The Chattanooga Bank Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1927, it was designed by architect R.H. Hunt, who also designed Chattanooga City Hall and the Hamilton County Courthouse. It originally housed the First National Bank and the Chattanooga Savings Bank & Trust. The last tenants left almost two years ago.

A proposed downtown Chattanooga apartment complex faces problems as developers try to find tenant parking.

Kevin Boehm, broker for the Raines Group, said Wednesday that no parking has been designated yet for an 11-story, 74-unit apartment complex to be located within the old Chattanooga Bank Building at Eighth and Market streets.

"There's parking; you have to figure out how to access it," he said. "That's our challenge."

Boehm is handling the property acquisition for Ray Moss Development Inc., which plans to spend $7 million to renovate the historic building.

The sale hasn't closed, Boehm said. One stipulation was a tax abatement agreement that was approved Tuesday by the City Council. The other is parking, he said.

"They're not going to buy the building unless there's a solution," he said.

The council gave Ray Moss Development a 12-year tax abatement for the residential part of the development. The building also will have retail stores on the first floor and office space on the top floor.

Kim White, president of River City Co., a nonprofit downtown development company, said a parking solution is being worked out.

"We have a lot of options," she said.

White said there are parking lots at the SunTrust Building on Market Street and other nearby areas. River City also is trying to work with other potential developers to build parking for the entire block, she said.

"It's critical to help reinvigorate that entire block," she said.

Those who live in the urban area may not value parking as much as those who live outside downtown, White said. The apartments might attract younger tenants who ride bicycles to and from work or to entertainment, she said.

Boehm said building parking lots could be expensive, and if River City can find an alternate player to help with parking, Ray Moss Development would be on board.

"That's something we would want to be part of," he said.

The site is zoned for mixed commercial, so the lack of parking isn't an insurmountable hurdle, said John Bridger, executive director for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

"It's pretty much wide open," he said.

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