Chattanooga Mayor Berke urges corps to pull permit for rundown barge

Chattanooga Mayor Berke urges corps to pull permit for rundown barge

July 12th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Mayor Andy Berke has asked the Army Corps to deny a permit for this rundown river barge owned by Allen Casey on the Tennessee River.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

TIMELINE

* 2009 - Barge floated to city from Pittsburgh with intention of putting in a restaurant

* November 2011 - Still undeveloped, barge shifts to one side and becomes half-submerged

* June 2012 - Barge is refloated

* April 2013 - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says barge is out of compliance with its permit

* June 2013 - Owner cleans up barge

* July 2013 - Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke asks Corps to not allow barge to remain permitted

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POLL: Should the barge be removed from Chattanooga?

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has weighed into the issue of the rundown barge on the Tennessee River downtown, urging federal regulators to not allow it to remain permitted.

In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Berke called the dilapidated barge moored across from the Tennessee Aquarium "unacceptable to the community."

The mayor cited the barge's appearance and condition, the debris originating from it, and the unlikelihood that the proposed restaurant project can be salvaged.

Chattanooga businessman Allen Casey floated the barge to the city from Pittsburgh in 2009 with the intention of putting in a New Orleans-style restaurant, a steakhouse and a bar.

The barge is moored to a vacant tract of land off Manufacturers Road, where Casey has said he's trying to put together financing for not just the restaurant project but a mixed use development on the parcel.

Casey, who did not return phone calls Thursday, recently cleaned up the barge after local officials criticized its condition.

This spring, the Corps said the barge wasn't complying with its permit, which ultimately could lead to its removal.

Thursday, the Corps declined immediate comment. It has termed the barge matter "an ongoing enforcement action."

Berke, in his letter dated Tuesday, said he is asking leaders of top business and downtown groups "to offer additional facts on the history of this barge and the reasons why its presence is contrary to the public's interest."

He named Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive; Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co.; and Bob Doak, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO.

In May, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker urged the Corps to keep in mind the "significant negative effects" the barge was having on the waterfront.

"Chattanooga has undertaken significant actions in recent years to develop its downtown," he said in a letter.

Casey, who made a name for himself with the successful development of the Chattanooga Choo Choo more than three decades ago, has said he's trying to work out project financing, but wouldn't give details.

In 2004, Casey announced plans for a 98-room AmeriSuites on the tract along with 60 condominiums, but nothing was built.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.