South Broad Street renewal stepping forward

South Broad Street renewal stepping forward

Leaders promote growth, work to preserve corridor's historic quality

June 22nd, 2010 by Ellis Smith in Businesstopstory

Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press A motorist passes by an empty lot and buildings containing two fine art stores on Broad Street. The area of Broad Street south of Interstate 24 is experiencing redevelopment, as seen in the future addition of a RaceWay convenience store, the opening of the Chattanooga Coffee Co. and the refurbished buildings.

Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

A banner campaign, new construction and a Riverwalk extension are just a few of the things in store for residents and businesses in the South Broad Street district.

Redevelopment is proceeding in the South Broad Street corridor, which extends south from downtown and is part of the route to such area attractions as Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls.

The South Broad Redevelopment Group, formed in 2002 to enhance the area for pedestrians and capitalize on the historic nature of the area, recently scored a victory by bringing in a RaceWay convenience store to occupy a formerly vacant tract at the north end of the South Broad corridor.

Other recent initiatives, including an exterior renovation of the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum, Crust Pizza's Broad Street expansion and the relocation of the Lookout Mountain Gallery to the corridor paint a picture of improving fortunes for the south side, said Mayor Ron Littlefield.

"It's nice to see new development and redevelopment of everything down there; it's used by a lot of people going to Lookout Mountain to visit the attractions or just coming in and out of the city on a daily basis," Mr. Littlefield said.

Residents should start noticing some changes in the area next month, according to Robby Posner, RaceTrac's vice president for real estate, engineering and construction.

"We're moving forward pretty quickly, and we should break ground in the middle of July," Mr. Posner said. "We're going to bring a really clean, fresh operation to a historical area, and it's going to be a facility that's going to blend in with what the redevelopment group is working really hard to achieve with that South Broad area."

Mike Harrell, president of the South Broad Redevelopment Group, said his group had eight to 10 meetings with RaceTrac officials to discuss changes to the original plan.

"They were very accommodating with us on colors and logos, as well as lowering the signage and adding hedges, basically a more inviting place than a suburban gas station," Mr. Harrell said.

He believes the new gas station will bring new business to the area without taking away from its historic flavor. The best way to preserve the area is to grow, but grow with consideration for the corridor's roots, he said.

"Our mission in life has been to make sure that whatever occurs between Lookout and downtown is consistent with everything that has developed over the last 10 to 15 years," Mr. Harrell added.

Other recent additions in the area include the new Chattanooga Coffee Co. roasting studio and espresso bar on the west side of South Broad, and Calvary Chapel, a relatively new church that moved into an old Bi-Lo on South Broad after researching other downtown options.

"We took an abandoned shopping center and turned it into an asset for the community," said Calvary Chapel Executive Pastor Ted Seidel. "We needed a place for growth, we needed a place we could afford, and we needed a lot of parking."

Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the best is yet to come for South Broad for the first time since the foundries and factories began shutting down decades ago.

"If we can create some more opportunities for people wanting to stop, whether it's restaurants or shopping, to keep people not just passing through, but stopping, and I think that's the goal," he said.

Plans for the next few years include re-purposing the Wheland foundry, expanding the number of water activities available and extending the Tennessee Riverwalk to Alstom through to Lookout Mountain, according to Mr. Harrell.

"I think the Riverwalk could happen before a lot of other stuff," Mr. Harrell said. "It's under $10 million to finish the whole thing to Lookout, and what we're trying to do is raise awareness of that, and that could be a catalyst."

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Article: Alstom wants Riverwalk at factory site