Developers on Wednesday received approval for their entire 46,000-square-foot North Shore Publix plan, adding additional retail space and rotating the building after they earlier had claimed such moves were not feasible.
During more than an hour of discussion, 15 neighbors shared stories of long drives to faraway grocery stores from Chattanooga's so-called "food desert," with most begging for quick approval to the Publix plan.
"It's like getting married," said resident John Wise, who also is a developer. "We've dated this Publix now for months. Pass it tonight."
Both Sallie Robinson and Deborah Scott, who represent nearby districts on the Chattanooga City Council, asked that the board make peace with the design compromises and pass the plan for the good of residents' pantries.
"We have people living in my district in Hill City that rent taxis in order to be able to get to the grocery store," said Deborah Scott, city councilwoman for district 1.
Some opponents have argued that a large parking lot along the street discourages walking, sacrifices tax revenue and takes away the North shores's unique character. But Publix advocates have said that Chattanooga can't afford to make too many demands lest the grocer walk away from the negotiating table.
Jim Sattler, chairman of the board of construction giant EMJ Corp., encouraged the board to "give up some of your guidelines."
"It's time to get them in there before we run somebody off," he said.
Following the approval from the North Shore Design Review Committee, construction will start at the 4.87-acre site in the spring, with the grocery store slated to open in late 2013, developers said.
Instead of a multi-story, mixed-use urban design similar to existing North shore structures, the new grocery store will consist of a single-story structure facing away from downtown, oriented inward toward a parking lot that runs along North Market Street -- much like the suburban Publix stores in Ooltewah or East Brainerd.
The design, as approved, is a nod to Chattanooga's industrial past, modeled as an elaborate warehouse with glazed brick designs and faux glass block windows. In a nod to the city's future, the plan includes a total of 4,800 square feet of retail space that was added after developers found a way to rotate the building.
"You can't help but think, we can do better," said Jim Johnson, a dissenting resident who pushed for a mixed-use grocery store that would have included homes and offices in a multistore structure. "It's not that this development goes too far, it's that it doesn't go far enough."
Public support from neighbors desperate for a neighborhood Publix helped stave off efforts by some urban planners to reduce the 225 parking spaces along North Market Street in favor of mixed-use structures more in line with the Greenlife Grocery on Manufacturers Road -- and the area's C7 zoning requirements,
"To me, what we're trying to do with urban design guidelines, we're trying to make sure what we build in the North Shore is of the same character of what we cherish, what's already there," argued Blythe Bailey, an urban designer. "The idea for new development is you continue that pattern. That's my best dissent to this."