Chattanooga officials hope work continues on tourist barge

Chattanooga officials hope work continues on tourist barge

June 30th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Brock Sparks, left, with River City Resorts Inc., talks with Underwater Services diver Cooper Jones about what is left to do now that the restaurant barge is floating again on the North Shore of the Tennessee River.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Now that a barge has been refloated on the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, local officials want the owner to speed ahead with plans for a waterfront restaurant and bar.

"If [the owner] is able to pull it off, it will be a huge asset to locals and tourists," said Bob Doak, who heads the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Earlier this week, workers refloated the barge moored to a parcel of land across the river from the Tennessee Aquarium. The barge had sat half-submerged since late last year and structures atop it had become rundown.

Workers have begun cleanup on the structures until construction can begin on the eatery and bar, which project manager Brock Sparks said could hopefully start in a few months.

Allen Casey of River City Resorts, which owns the barge and vacant riverfront tract, has said he wants to turn the structure into a showcase.

Jerry Sterling, of the nonprofit Riverfront Business & Resident Partnership, said anything to animate the river is positive.

"Let's do it right so it helps the city," he said about Casey's proposed project.

Doak said people are naturally attracted to the waterfront.

"We have a very limited waterfront" downtown, he said, adding the city needs to take advantage of the river and go beyond what was done in 2005 with the 21st Century Waterfront Project that remade Ross's Landing.

Doak said he hopes that Casey doesn't sit on the property and barge and do nothing.