1924: Hotel opens on Market Street across from railroad terminal that’s now the Chattanooga Choo Choo
1980s: Operates until about this time period but becomes vacant
2004: Fire damages rear portion
2006: St. George Development LLC buys the site with intention of putting in condominiums, but Great Recession hits two years later
2012: City takes down rear part of building for safety reasons
2013: Marta Alder buys the four-story structure
2016: Alder unveils plans for 55-room boutique hotel
Source: Cornerstones, news archives
A 92-year-old vacant downtown Chattanooga building that originally offered lodging to train passengers may again serve as a hotel.
The former St. George Hotel, located on Market Street across from the Chattanooga Choo Choo, may see new life as boutique lodging with its owner filing plans with the city to put in a 55-room hotel.
Marta Alder, who bought the rundown building three years ago, said Monday she plans to keep the historic front portion of the former hotel, which lost its rear section about four years ago.
"I'll add a new structure around it and behind it," she said.
The structure will remain four stories, but hold underground parking as well as rooftop active space such as a bar and small day spa, plans show.
"Rooftop bars and day spas are very popular amenities in hotels, in very high demand," she wrote in a request for a variance from the city.
Alder, who moved from Miami three years ago after she bought the building, said she'd like to start work next year with an opening slated for 2018. Plans are to keep the name, she said.
"That's part of history," Alder said.
Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co., said the timing is right for reworking the building.
"The market is there; banks are lending money," she said. "It would be awesome."
Ann Gray, executive director of the Chattanooga historic preservation group Cornerstones, said the building was raised in 1924 and was billed as the city's first "fire- proof" hotel.
She believed it was still used into the 1980s but became vacant.
The St. George Hotel, along with the nearby former Terminal Hotel, Grand Hotel and YMCA building, all served as lodging related to the then-railroad station, Gray said.
"It's all about that as a transportation hub," she said.
Alder, a businesswoman with a background in renovating older buildings in Miami, termed the project a "multimillion- dollar" effort, but wouldn't give a price tag.
Initially, she thought about turning the site into condominiums. But now, Alder said, the building will best be restored into a hotel while upgrading it to modern requirements.
Gray said Cornerstones and the Lyndhurst Foundation have helped provide study money in the past and there are funds available.
Also, she said, there are historic tax credits which can be part of the financial redevelopment package.
"We've been very supportive of her efforts and plans," Gray said. "We really have our finger's crossed."
White said that portion of downtown is undergoing a big comeback, and a new hotel would leave just one building, the former Ellis Restaurant, on that side of the block unrestored.
"Sometimes it takes time," she said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318.