published Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Offices, retailers eyed for downtown Chattanooga's 700 block

Developers are showing new interest in downtown Chattanooga as work starts on a Southside office and retail project and proposals are to be sought on the 700 block of Market Street and another key site.

A two-story building is going up on the Southside in the same block as the Southern Star restaurant at Cowart and 13th streets in a $1.2 million project.

Chattanooga developer John Clark said the 12,000-square-foot building has an office tenant for the top floor, ACA Verification Services, and room for five ground-floor retail spots.

"We own the rest of the block. It was always part of the plan," he said about raising the new building.

John Straussberger, president of Strauss Co., said the structure will feature a brick veneer and give it the look of an old-style storefront.

"It's like the Main Street restorations," he said, citing a number of older buildings nearby which have been refurbished. Straussberger said work should be done in about five months.

700 BLOCK

Meanwhile, redevelopment proposals are to be sought soon for the 700 block tract on Market Street along with the key corner of Broad and Fourth streets, said Kim White, president of property owner River City Co.

"We've had so many people come to us about those two parcels," said White.

The head of the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group said the 700 block has to include parking and retail. It also could hold housing, she said. White said she also likes the idea of a connection with Cherry Street one block over.

Late last year, Chattanooga developer Trey Stanley and River City reached a settlement in their long-running dispute over an aborted $16 million condo complex planned for the 700 block.

After five years of starts and stops and legal wrangling, the tract is coming back on the market.

The Fourth and Broad parcel holds The Majestic movie theater on one end, which River City developed.

White said the undeveloped portion, a gateway into the central city from U.S. 27, could hold up to 30,000 square feet of retail space and a building five to six stories high, White said.

"We've been approached by a lot of different concepts such as housing or a hotel," she said. "We're flexible on it."

Straussberger said he's seeing more projects start up since building fell off during the Great Recession.

"There seems to be more of these type projects happening," he said about the new Southside project.

In fact, Clark said work could begin this spring on Walnut Commons, a 100-unit apartment complex that would be the biggest erected downtown in a generation.

On Wednesday, Clark moved closer to finalizing the long-delayed, $11 million project after working through land purchase details with the city's Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp.

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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