Downtown work not done, River City chief says

Downtown work not done, River City chief says

February 10th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

CENTRAL CITY EATERIES

Downtown Chattanooga has more than 30 homegrown restaurants, an official says.

Despite downtown Chattanooga's successes, it still needs more housing and retailers, and parking improvements may be on the way, a central city development official said Wednesday.

"We now have about 3,300 residents in the downtown footprint, which is great, but we need more," said Kim White, chief executive officer of the nonprofit downtown development group River City Co.

River City is trying to woo more stores, and "retail follows rooftops," she said.

"We're not quite there yet," White said to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's Midtown Council.

She said two new downtown apartment buildings are close to breaking ground -- Walnut Commons and Mission on Main.

John Clark, a principal in Walnut Commons, said his group is in the pre-construction phase, but "we should have something in six to eight weeks."

"There's a tremendous need for downtown apartments," he said, noting that demand is expected to grow nationally because of the difficulty in financing single-family housing.

Walnut Commons, planned at Walnut and Second streets, is to have about 100 apartments. Mission on Main, slated for Main and Market streets, has 48 units planned.

White said downtown needs work force and mixed-income housing.

In addition, she said downtown has about 1 million square feet of office and retail space available.

"We're working on getting people to invest in our downtown," the River City chief said.

Concerning parking, she said a collection of entities are aiming at taking recommendations to the City Council in a couple of months.