published Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Makeover proposed for Lookout Mountain City Hall building

This is an architect's rendering of the planned Lookout Mountain Town Center.
This is an architect's rendering of the planned Lookout Mountain Town Center.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- For years, tourists have come to See Rock City.

It's a safe bet that few take a second look at Lookout Mountain City Hall, which is housed in an aging cement-block building that once was a restaurant.

But an extreme makeover may be in the works.

Council members have given rave reviews to renderings of a proposed town center drawn by architect Michael McGowan of River Street Architecture.

"We've talked about it for so long, and there are a lot of people that'd really like to see it happen," Mayor Bill Glascock said of the town center, which takes design cues from Lookout Mountain landmarks Rock City and the Fairyland Club.

The proposal calls for demolishing the current City Hall and putting two buildings in its place: one for city administration and the other for public safety, including living space for the combination police-firefighters on site around the clock.

Public safety workers don't have an ideal setup now, the mayor said.

"They sleep in one building, they work in another and they have breakfast in yet another," Glascock said. "That's why it's dysfunctional."

The project also calls for repurposing the four-bay public works building next to City Hall into a fire station. Public works vehicles will move into the new public works building now under construction on Lula Lake Road.

The new city buildings would cost $1.2 million.

"We're going to raise taxes to service the debt on the $1.2 million," the mayor said.

A number of pieces still have to fall in place for the architectural renderings come to life.

City Hall's front lawn is owned by Scott Maclellan, and he must agree to sell the land to private developer Charter Real Estate Corp. to allow construction of the proposed commercial part of the project: a doctor's office and retail space, including an eatery with outdoor seating.

Maclellan, whose family founded the insurance company that morphed into what's now Chattanooga-based Unum, said he spent six years working to get the city to accept his plans for a town center on the site. Maclellan said he tore down buildings with paying tenants at the city's request only to have his plans rejected.

"I'm done with it. Let [the new developer] deal with the city," Maclellan said Thursday afternoon.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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