City Council approves $3.7 million for complex that will hold Family Justice Center

Chattanooga City Council Chairman Carol Berz listens during a July council meeting.

The midTown central complex that will house the Family Justice Center, the Children's Advocacy Center and other organizations serving victims of abuse was approved Tuesday night for $3.7 million in funding by the Chattanooga City Council.

The center will be on Eastgate Loop and replace the temporary structure now there. The center has been years in the making, said Councilwoman Carol B. Berz of District 6, where the complex will be.

"Chattanooga is developing a one-stop shop for the nation," Berz said after the meeting, saying she wants to build something the rest of the country will emulate. "It's a one-stop shop for folks in trouble."

The budget isn't new money, Berz said. It's been approved before and this was the final approval process. The budget includes a contingency of $179,000, and J&J Contractors was given the contract.

photo Chattanooga City Council Chairman Carol Berz listens during a July council meeting.

Architects presented plans for the building and some sketches of what the outside will look like. The center will have space for the Chattanooga Police Department's Special Victims Unit, Legal Aid Services and even the McKamey Animal Center, whose personnel will look after a victim's pet while they talk with people.

Berz said one of the problems for victims of either domestic or sexual abuse is they have to go several places around town to get treatment and file a police report. But with this new center, close to everything a victim needs will be in one complex, she said.

The midTown central building also will have a public area on one end that will have a variety of uses for residents. Some have wondered if putting a public space next to a center for victims of violence would be wise.

"Does the design create any security concerns?" Councilman Yusuf Hakeem asked the architect.

They assured him several safety measures have been enacted to protect victims.

"That has been on our minds, particularly as we deal with children and other people who are having problems these folks often have," the architect said.

Berz told the Times Free Press after the meeting that each sector of the complex will have separate entrances, and privacy will be available when it is needed.

Construction will take about 270 days, and the center should be ready by October 2016, the architects said.

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com, @Evan Hoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.