Downtown Chattanooga barge faces Corps deadline

Downtown Chattanooga barge faces Corps deadline

September 17th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The Allen Casey barge is continuing to decay while being unused on the Tennessee River. U.S. Corps of Engineers is expected to make a decision on the future of the Allen Casey barge docked on Chattanooga's north shore.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

POLL: Should the barge be removed from Chattanooga?

The fate of a rundown barge moored across from the Tennessee Aquarium now lies in the hands of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

A 90-day period set by the Corps to bring the barge into compliance with its permit ended Monday.

Corps spokesman Lee Roberts said it will make a decision whether to reinstate, modify or revoke the permit.

"Since this remains an ongoing enforcement action, the Corps is not at liberty to further discuss any details regarding those communications or the permittee's noncompliance," he said in a statement.

On Monday, owner Allen Casey declined comment about the barge he floated to the city from Pittsburgh in 2009 and wants to turn into a restaurant and bar.

But in the past, he has said that he has significantly cleaned up the barge, which is moored on the north shore of the Tennessee River on property he owns and wants to develop.

Also Monday, a couple of city leaders and critics of the barge said it's time for it to leave its highly visible downtown location.

Bob Doak, who heads the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he'd like to see the Corps revoke the barge permit "and require him to remove the barge from downtown Chattanooga. Period."

Doak said he wanted the Corps to take action against the barge immediately.

Kim White, chief executive of the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., too, called for the Corps to act now.

She said the Head of the Hooch regatta is slated for Nov. 2 and 3, an event that is expected to bring thousands to Chattanooga's riverfront. Unless the barge goes, it will offer "a terrible impression," White said.

A letter from Corps district engineer John L. Hudson, dated July 25, said Casey was given until Monday to provide additional information and implement corrective measures to bring the barge into compliance.

This spring, the Corps said the barge wasn't complying with its permit and city leaders, including Doak and White, sent their own letters to the Corps denouncing the structure.

Also, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke waded into the issue, urging federal regulators not to allow the barge to remain permitted. Berke called the dilapidated barge "unacceptable to the community."

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 hasn't given details.

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

After bringing the barge to Chattanooga in 2009, the still undeveloped structure shifted to one side, water poured in and it became half-submerged on the river bottom. In June 2012, the barge was refloated.

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