A Florida real estate company has emerged as the leading bidder for a high-profile tract on Chattanooga's downtown riverfront, and the firm reportedly has a potential tenant or two.
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Chattanooga on Thursday agreed to the proposed sale of a vacant 6.6-acre piece of property to a company related to Boca Raton, Fla.-based Halvorsen Holdings for $5.5 million.
Jerrold Farinash, trustee in Chattanooga businessman Allen Casey's bankruptcy case, said Halvorsen is conducting due diligence on the property that's located on the North Shore across from Ross's Landing.
He declined to name the possible property user, but said it's a commercial one and that there's a "secondary tenant" as well.
The real estate company says its mission is for its grocer, restaurateur, health, medical and service-retail merchants to better serve their customers. In Tennessee, Halvorsen’s website says it’s developing an upcoming grocery-anchored shopping center in Murfreesboro.
Halvorsen is different from another company named last month as a potential buyer for the site. That business, American River Development LLC, is willing to let Halvorsen try to close on the sale of the property because the Florida company has a potential user, Farinash said.
The proposed $5.5 million sale price is more than the $5.2 million American River offered. But, Farinash said, the deals are essentially the same because of the way the initial offer was structured.
Still, that price was called one of the highest for a downtown tract in years. At $5.5 million, the parcel that's located off Manufacturers Road would sell for $833,333 per acre.
Chattanooga attorney Gary Patrick, who represents former Casey investors who had sued the businessman, termed the proposal "a good deal" for his clients.
"It's a fair price for the property," he said. "It's a fair settlement for all the creditors involved. It's been going on for a long time." Casey and one of his companies filed bankruptcy in 2014.
Patrick said the deal would settle nearly all the outstanding issues in the bankruptcy case.
At a hearing, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Shelley Rucker granted the request to sell the property "free and clear."
Farinash said that if Halvorsen doesn't close on the deal, then he intends to proceed to do so with American River by early next year.
The Casey property is part of an 11-acre tract that sits in a key spot across from the Tennessee Aquarium and Ross's Landing, the city's so-called "front porch." The other part is owned by Chattanooga businessman Jackson Wingfield.
In 2009, Casey brought a barge to the city to put in a floating restaurant and bar adjacent to the property, but that project fizzled and the vessel deteriorated over the years. In the summer of 2015, the removal of the rundown barge, long a point of criticism for its derelict state, was seen as making the land easier to sell.
Casey, who developed the Chattanooga Choo Choo into one of Tennessee's top attractions decades ago, and one of his companies filed for bankruptcy as he faced a civil trial related to a lawsuit brought by the former investors.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.
This story was updated Nov. 16 at 9:55 p.m. with more information.