While some local companies aren't keen on the Tennessee Riverwalk rolling over their sites, Alstom has made the linear park a priority and a key to landing a top green design status for its new factory.
"Alstom made it clear -- the greenway is important," said Larry Zehnder, the city's parks and recreation administrator.
Stephane Cai, managing director of Alstom's new $300 million turbine facility along the Tennessee River downtown, said the Riverwalk issue was raised with Chattanooga's and Hamilton County's mayors in the first visit by one of his top bosses to the city.
"They were surprised by the request from my boss," Mr. Cai said. "He said, 'I know you have a wonderful Riverwalk. We're located on the riverside less than a mile from Ross's Landing. We'd love to see the Riverwalk passing by our site.'"
Alstom is helping push ahead the Riverwalk's design and a firm is undertaking a plan, Mr. Cai said.
"We're paying them in advance to make a conceptual plan," he said.
Dan Saieed, Hamilton County's development director, said the Alstom Riverwalk piece is part of an effort to build the newest stretch of the popular waterfront attraction.
The extension will start near the Riverwalk's existing terminal point near Ross's Landing marina and run to Finley Stadium, more than a mile, he said.
The cost is estimated at about $2.15 million, Mr. Saieed said. A $1.72 million federal grant will go toward the project, he said, with the city and county splitting the remainder, though a private developer is planning to lay down one piece.
Downtown developer Eugene H. "Buck" Schimpf III, behind the $80 million Cameron Harbor project off Riverfront Parkway, said he will build a section of the linear park through his mixed-use development adjacent to Ross's Landing.
Mr. Saieed said Riverwalk work is to start in January and finish by the end of 2011.
Mr. Zehnder said that, while some business people are apprehensive about the Riverwalk going through their locations, more are seeing the value of the greenways.
The Riverwalk permits easy access by employees and enables them to take healthy walks, he said.
"Businesses have caught on that this is an important feature to the betterment of the company and their employees," Mr. Zehnder said.
Also, the Riverwalk will play a part in securing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status for Alstom's Riverfront Parkway manufacturing campus, company officials said. They've said the company wants to land a "gold" LEED designation.
The new Riverwalk section will be the largest piece added since a six-mile tract was opened a half decade ago, county engineer Todd Leamon said.
Mr. Leamon said it's too early to say how the newest Riverwalk parcel will link to Finley Stadium.
"We're trying to figure out the best option," he said. "It might go up Riverfront Parkway."
Alstom's new plant already has employed about 200 people, and 150 more are to join the company by 2013. The plant, Alstom's biggest company investment in decades, will make the world's largest steam and gas turbines for the nuclear industry.
Also, the factory will retrofit existing power plants, officials said.
On Thursday, Alstom officials will gather with state and local officials at the new plant to mark the factory's opening.
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