UTC's Frist Hall to be torn down

photo UTC's Frist Hall, donated to the school in 1985 by HCA and named after its co-founder Thomas F. Frist Sr., has been approved for demolition.

NASHVILLE - A nearly 65-year-old building donated to UTC in 1985 by hospital giant HCA and named by the university after company co-founder Thomas F. Frist Sr. is coming down.

State Building Commission members approved the demolition of Frist Hall as part of an $800,000 parking improvement project.

It's partially aimed at addressing flooding issues at the site.

"The project approved by the State Building Commission was for renovations to an existing parking lot" with 286 spaces, said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor for communications and marketing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Cantrell said the site, located between McCallie Avenue and Oak Street, "suffers from major flooding issues. Through this project, UTC plans to redesign the stormwater management and add new parking spaces."

The estimated 25,000-square-foot former Medical Park Hospital was built in 1950 and later became part of HCA's chain of hospitals. Additions were later made in the 1960s and 1970s, Cantrell said.

The late Frist Sr. and one of his sons, Thomas "Tommy" Frist Jr., co-founded Hospital Corp. of America in 1968. Another of Frist Sr.'s sons is former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Robbi Stivers, Capital Projects executive director for the University of Tennessee, said his understanding is the building would be torn down within the next year.

Building Commission members approved the project and authorized UT system officials to proceed with selecting a designer. The overall $800,000, funded in part by student parking fees, also makes improvements to at least one other campus parking lot, including one serving Grote and Holt Halls toward UTC's eastern end.

Cantrell said when the former hospital was donated to the university in 1985, it had been vacant since 1982 but had a value pegged at $1.5 million. The building was dedicated in honor of Frist Sr. in 1987.

The building has housed a number of UTC operations over the years. Currently, the UTC Department of Communication, the Disability Resource Center and Student Support Services are housed in Frist Hall.

"There is not a definite timeline or relocation plan for the occupants of the building at this time," Cantrell said. But he noted the state of Tennessee's transfer of its Chattanooga State Office Building to the university "allows for flexibility in relocations.

"Some occupants from Frist could move into the state building or to space vacated elsewhere on campus when other departments move," Cantrell added.

Building Commission members last week also gave the go-ahead for UTC to begin proceeding with the process of selecting a designer on $2.7 million of lighting upgrades on the campus. The purpose is increasing energy efficiency.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.