The yellow brick building on 11th Street across from the Community Kitchen that the city bought for $775,000 was gutted by fire tonight.
Rick Spencer, a homeless man who was squatting with others in the building, said he saw another person set a mattress alight and watched the fire spread. The roof collapsed as dozens of Chattanooga firefighters attacked the flames and police blocked off East 11th Street.
The building is on the site that the city bought in 2006 for $775,000 and which Mayor Ron Littlefield proposed to renovate as a homeless complex.
It's now planned as the site of the Hamilton County Homeless Health Care Center, should the county eventually decide to build the facility. In April, the City Council agreed to pay for a design study for a police precinct on one end of the site.
Littlefield's spokesman, Richard Beeland, said from the fire scene Thursday night that he didn't have an immediate estimate of the building's value.
As of 11:30 p.m. the fire has stopped.