City-owned block on E. Main St. eyed for transformation into an urban development

City-owned block on E. Main St. eyed for transformation into an urban development

January 23rd, 2016 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

Program director Lee Barton works at the Chattanooga Furniture Bank on Thursday, January 14, 2016.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Gallery: City block on E. Main at edge of Highland Park eyed for 'neighborhood-friendly commercial development'

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The revitalization of Chattanooga's hip Southside neighborhood may spread eastward with the city's plans to let go of a 67,000-square-foot cluster of buildings — an entire city block — that it owns at 1815 E. Main St.

Planners who endorsed the sale said the site could be transformed into what a county report calls "an urban, mixed-use, neighborhood-friendly [commercial] development."

"The city owns some properties that are under performing — the Main Street building being one of them," Chattanooga spokeswoman Marissa Bell said.

The Chattanooga City Council will consider declaring the 2.41-acre site as surplus property at its meeting Tuesday. The Hamilton County Planning Commission already recommended doing so at its Jan. 11 meeting. A county planning commission report says that once the property is declared surplus, it could be redeveloped through a request for proposals (RFP) process.

The city doesn't have a developer waiting in the wings, officials say.

"We do not currently have a developer for the Main Street building," Bell said.

City Councilman Moses Freeman, whose District 8 includes the property, echoed that.

"All we're doing at this point is declaring it surplus," Freeman said. "I know of no project that is being planned. It may be something, but I haven't heard anything about it."

Arcade Marketing, a business that prints fragrance and cosmetics test samples for magazines and advertising, used to be located at the property, which is bounded by East Main, East 14th, South Hawthorne streets and South Orchard Knob Avenue. Arcade relocated about five years ago to 3720 Amnicola Highway.

The city building now houses the Chattanooga Furniture Bank, a program of Goodwill Industries Chattanooga that supplies used furniture to needy people, including the formerly homeless, those fleeing domestic violence and people whose homes have been damaged by fire or flood.

City officials have promised to find another space for the furniture bank, said Goodwill's Vice President of Missions Cindy Sims.

"We have been assured that they will find us a space, and they support everything we do," Sims said. "We don't have space at Goodwill to do it."

A variety of city departments store records in the building now, Bell said, but if the property is declared surplus, the city will find another building to use for records storage.

The county planning commission report says that the 2000 Highland Park Plan calls for the rehabilitation of commercial buildings along "neighborhood edges" such as Main Street "to enhance neighborhood retail opportunities and eliminate blighted conditions."

Armando's Restaurant, which opened in 1969 and has been owned for 27 years by Eric and Beth Beaird, is at 1814 E. Main Street across from the old Advance printing building. Armando's will be remodeled soon, Beth Beaird said, and she'd like to see her end of Main Street thrive like it has near Market Street.

"We're hoping [revitalization] does come this way," Beaird said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.