Chattanooga: VW shifts initial work to March

Chattanooga: VW shifts initial work to March

January 3rd, 2009 by Mike Pare in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Heavy construction equipment creates a flurry of activity on Wednesday afternoon at the site of the Volkswagen plant being built at Enterprise South industrial park in Chattanooga.

Groundbreaking for Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant has shifted to March, a couple of months later than the January timeframe the company initially planned.

According to Volkswagen personnel, board members for the German automaker want to take part in the groundbreaking but can't fit it into their schedules this month.

"The board members for Volkswagen AG want to attend and, unfortunately, we couldn't get all the schedules to coordinate until March," said Jill Bratina, Volkswagen Group of America's corporate communications director.

The event is "a ceremonial groundbreaking," and construction on the $1 billion auto assembly plant at Enterprise South industrial park is ongoing, she said.

"The project is still on schedule," Ms. Bratina said.

Progress also continues on refitting office space in downtown Chattanooga for VW, said David Barrueta, who is leasing space in Chestnut Tower on Chestnut Street.

Volkswagen is leasing three floors of the building at 605 Chestnut St. so it will have space to hold up to 140 workers, including its top local leadership.

The 30,000 square feet also will be used for VW's purchasing and administrative support functions, according to Volkswagen. In addition, there could be a Volkswagen sign placed on the building.

David Unruh, project director for the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group RiverCity Co., said the move will introduce a lot of vendors and suppliers to the central city.

"Some vendors and suppliers may want to locate downtown," he said. "It sends a nice message to potential new restaurants and retailers. We're so fortunate that, given the economy and that kind of thing, we have robust employers in downtown."

The "German school" promised to VW officials by Hamilton County Schools administrators will open at Normal Park Museum Magnet when classes resume this month, officials have said. So far, five students have registered for its classes, officials said, but no one is sure how many to expect or what grades they will be in.

About two weeks ago, VW named Michigan-based builder Walbridge as the general contractor for the plant's $30 million paint shop. Walbridge and its subcontractors will build the foundation and put up the steel, siding and roofing for the shop, expected to be weather-tight by the end of September.

Workers already have the building pads for the 1.9 million-square-foot facility essentially ready. However, they continue to move dirt at other parts of the 1,340-acre site.