Lady Liberty greets Liberty Tower guests

Lady Liberty greets Liberty Tower guests

May 17th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Nelson Irvine, left, talks with Sharon Werner in front of a bronze cast of the Statue of Liberty which was unveiled Thursday in the lobby of the newly remodeled Liberty Tower building in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

About Liberty Tower

* Location: 605 Chestnut Street

* Square footage: 192,228 square feet

* Height: 17 floors, 210 feet tall

* Features: LED lighting, occupancy sensors, onsite showers, 11-foot Statue of Liberty replica, LEED certification, bike stands

* Anchor tenants: Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel; Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain

Source: Jim Berry Company

About Little Liberty:

* Height: 11 feet

* Material: Bronze

* Origin: Original mold used to make New York's full-size statue of Liberty

* Total number of Little Liberties in the world: 4

Source: Jim Berry Company

An 11-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, cast from the original mold discovered in 2005, lit up Chattanooga on Thursday at the unveiling of the 17-floor Liberty Tower. It is one of only four in the world.

Parking magnate and real estate mogul Jim Berry, whose patriotic theme permeates his business holdings, acquired the statue from France, which has allowed only 12 copies to be made from the recently discovered original mold of Lady Liberty. The mold, which was used to create the much-larger copper version that once welcomed the tired and poor to Ellis Island, was found gathering dust in a museum by a French art broker in 2005, who recognized it for what it was.

The museum rebuffed Guillaume Duhamel's efforts to buy the mold outright. But the collector was later allowed to use it to make his own copies of the work on the condition that the statue not go to just anybody.

"It's such a symbol that it cannot just be in any hand," said Duhamel, who traveled from France for the unveiling. "It must be displayed in the spirit of the work itself."

Despite what many believe, the original statue was not a gift from the country of France. At least, not exactly. Rather, it was paid for by ordinary French citizens who chipped in whatever they could spare as a gift to the American people, who themselves took up collections to pay for the monument on which the statue stands today, Duhamel said.

Though a confidentiality agreement precludes Berry from discussing the cost, news reports at the unveiling of New York's version of the statuette pegged the cost of each replica at $2 million.

Berry's bronze lady, who stands astride a mini marble monumment adorned by quotes from founding fathers like Patrick Henry, doesn't have a harbor to guard like her heftier New York counterpart. But a custom domed structure gives her torch plenty of headroom, and a hidden fountain beneath her feet allows her still to walk on water.

Forever keeping her eyes on both lobby entrances as well as on Chestnut street traffic, she represents the best ideals of the American Republic, and serves as a reminder of the values that keep the country free, Berry said after the unveiling.

"That statue represents the free men and women of this country, and the liberty that we need to protect that makes our freedom possible," Berry said.

Berry, founder of Republic Parking, bought Liberty Tower from Chattanooga developer Franklin Haney, who built the building as an institutional structure to house TVA, then later BlueCross BlueShield. Volkswagen was later a tenant, but its move to Enterprise South left the structure vacant.

"Once I got it from [Haney], I planned to take about five years to renovate it and really take my time," Berry said. "Then Chambliss Bahner showed up and said they wanted four floors, so immediately I had to start the renovations. That was in January 2011, and we've been at it ever since."

Berry spent about $20 million on the dramatic renovation of the 192,000-square-foot LEED-certified tower, including new windows, heating, plumbing, elevators and LED lights that can display a rainbow of colors and even animated sequences, said Steve Hunt, a partner at Berry & Hunt.

"We've been filling up every square foot of our Class A office space," said Hunt. "This was a great deal and the building was so well-constructed that we had to do this."

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.