Southside getting 2 big projects

Southside getting 2 big projects

December 6th, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Tim Barber The former Hill's Florist building at the corner of Main and Long streets will become a grocery store by summer 2010.

A pair of developers on Saturday announced plans for a full-service grocery store and an apartment complex in the Southside area of downtown Chattanooga.

Gavin Thomas and Eric Cummings, collectively known as Paper Street Associates, are the longtime Southside residents and the developers behind Enzo's Market at Main and Long streets and the mixed-use retail and residential project, the Mission on Main.

"When both of these projects come into place, it is just going to be a different place, which is really exciting," Mr. Thomas said. "In the next couple of years, Main Street is going to be unrecognizable."

The two projects are the culmination of years of momentum that has been building in the community now undergoing a resurgence. Enzo's will add a downtown grocery outlet for the growing downtown residential population, while the Mission will add 40 rental units to the downtown area.

Both projects will involve renovating large, currently unused properties on one of the cities busiest thoroughfares. Enzo's Market will occupy the former Hill's Florist building, a 16,000 square-foot space that has been empty for the past two years. Enzo's alone will mean a multimillion-dollar investment in the area, according to Mr. Thomas and Mr. Cummings. The developers expect workers to begin work on the grocery store in January and hope to have it completed by June of next year.

The Mission on Main project will get under way in the spring of 2010 and should be completed by early 2011. The site at a corner of Main and Market streets is the former site of the Union Gospel Mission and a highly visible to motorists coming into the downtown area and is something the developers see as the last major piece of the Main Street renaissance, Mr. Thomas said.

The design of the Mission on Main project has been intentionally made to fit in with the area and offer a dramatic entry into downtown.

"It is a very important site, it sits right on the most visible corner in our district and one of the more visible corners in the downtown area," Mr. Cummings said.

Brandy Davis, who lives in the Southside neighborhood, said she is sure she'll go to Enzo's to shop, and believes both projects will be a positive thing for her community.

"I think having apartments is a fabulous thing, especially if they can be affordable to people who work in the area," she said. "Having the grocery store is going to be great because people really don't have anywhere that they can just pop out for a gallon of milk."

Urban Market arrives

Sam Turner, the man behind Enzo's Market, comes to the grocery business with decades of experience behind him. When he sold his chain of Favorite Market convenience stores to Mapco three years ago, he was operating 131 of the stores. Today he still operates 26 stores in Alabama and Florida.

He plans for the store to be an upscale gourmet urban grocery store, with 11,000 square feet dedicated to the supermarket, about 2,200 square feet of cafe and deli and a 1,150-square-foot wine shop.

"It will be something kind of different for the area, but similar to the old urban grocery stores that used to exist before people decided they wanted to go shop in 150,000 square foot place," Mr. Turner said.

He plans to carry some organic foods, but he will also have staples like Coca-Cola and Fritos. The store also will have ready-to-eat foods to serve the busy residents of downtown.

As far as prices go, he said the store will be competitive with other supermarkets and will be extremely user-friendly, Mr. Turner said. So far, residents of the surrounding communities have been nothing but excited about the project.

"The only feedback I've gotten is, 'When are you going to open?'" he said.

A new mission

The opening of Mission on Main in early 2011 will bring a large apartment community. "This truly has been a collaborative process to make sure this project is the best thing for this area," Mr. Cummings said.

The project, expected to cost around $6 million, will bring 40 market-rate apartments to downtown along with space for seven or eight retail tenants. Rental rates at the Bread Factory Lofts on nearby Cowart Street start between $750 and $900.

On the retail side, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Thomas have recently begun talking to potential tenants. There is space for a restaurant or two and so far they said they expect interest to be good.