Resort on the river: work is under way on Chattanooga's Cameron Harbor

Resort on the river: work is under way on Chattanooga's Cameron Harbor

February 13th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Businesstopstory

Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Buck Schimpf, developer, describes the position of a retaining wall and the river walk at the Cameron Harbor construction site Monday morning. Schimpf and Hiren Desai, hotel developer, checked on the progress of construction at the site Monday. The site is the biggest downtown Chattanooga mixed development in the last three years.

Chattanooga developer Eugene "Buck" Schimpf calls Cameron Harbor, one of downtown's largest-ever developments, an extension of the city's $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Project.

"We're creating almost a resort on the river in the middle of downtown," he said about the mixed-use development that is itself valued at about $80 million.

Work is under way on the first phase of Cameron Harbor, which sits off Riverfront Parkway just west of the Waterfront Project and Ross's Landing.

Sixteen upscale waterfront townhouses, a Spring Hill Suites by Marriott hotel, a restaurant and boat docks are planned in the first phase of work, Schimpf said. A 25-unit condominium project is slated for phase two in a few years, he said.

Hiren Desai, chief executive of Chattanooga-based hotel developer 3H Group, said the $15 million hotel will be the first built on the city's downtown waterfront overlooking the Tennessee River.

Cameron Harbor Mixed-use development located on a nine-acre tract on the former Jones-Blair Co. property off Riverfront Parkway near Cameron Hill.

"There's a need for having a hotel on the river," he said about the five-story, 116-unit structure that's expected to be ready by early 2012.

The 21st Century Waterfront Project, pushed last decade by then-mayor and now U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, was credited as helping finish what the Tennessee Aquarium started 19 years ago at Ross's Landing.

The Waterfront Project created a more parklike sense of place along the river with ribbons of grass, amphitheater seating, boat docks and a water monument to the Cherokee Indians.

Cameron Harbor sits next door on a 9-acre tract that redevelops a large swath of formerly industrial buildings that 25 years ago occupied much of downtown's waterfront. The project site reuses a parcel that for many years held a portion of Jones-Blair Paint Co.'s manufacturing operations.

townhouses first

Either four or eight townhouses will go up initially, depending on demand, said Schimpf.

"We're working on six contracts," he said.

The townhouses will range in price from $900,000 to $1.7 million, while stretching in size from 2,500 square feet to 4,200 square feet, said Schimpf.

"It's going to be high-end," said the businessman, who years ago helped spur downtown's housing boom with the redevelopment of the Lovemans building on Market Street into condos.

PROJECT TIMELINE

* 2006 - WinPar Hospitality LLC of Orlando buys part of the former Jones-Blair Paint Co. property off Riverfront Parkway and proposes large mixed-use development. But WinPar files Chapter 7 bankruptcy before work begins.

* December 2007 - A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge orders that Chattanooga developer Eugene "Buck" Schimpf or his nominee could be conveyed WinPar's interest in the site.

* January 2008 - Schimpf announces plans for townhouses, a hotel, condominiums and boat docks on the downtown waterfront site.

* February 2011 - Work under way on first phase of $80 million project.

Real estate often leads the economy out of recession, he said. This time, that may occur from the top end of the market down, Schimpf said.

"We're seeing extremely qualified purchasers," he said.

Darlene Brown, co-owner of Real Estate Partners in the city, said there have been several million-dollar real estate closings recently.

She said she was heartened by interest in Cameron Harbor at the city's boat show held late last month where the developer set up a booth.

"There were lots of questions about the floor plans," Brown said.

Desai said the hotel will offer 3,000 square feet of meeting space as well as waterfront views.

"The future of downtown is great," he said about why he's moving ahead with the hotel.

Meanwhile, the city plans to expand its nearby marina by up to 54 boat slips. Plans also are to extend the Riverwalk from Ross's Landing through Cameron Harbor, adding another amenity to the project, officials said.

Adelia Mosley, Real Estate Partners marketing director, said the Cameron Harbor site and the hotel will be "a great place for a wedding or parties."

Schimpf said he hasn't settled on a restaurant yet. He's looking for the right operator first.

"He'll know what kind of restaurant should be there," Schimpf said.

Kuebler Builders is doing the site work, while River Street Architecture designed the project, he said.

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