Mayor to unveil city's plan for new government building, retail space in Lookout Mountain, Georgia

Lookout Mountain (Georgia) Mayor David Bennett talks about his town at a Tuesday morning meeting in the Commission Room with the Times Free Press.

Lookout Mountain, Georgia, Mayor David Bennett will unveil the city's plan for a new government building and retail space next week.

Bennett and other city officials will host a public meeting at the Lookout Mountain Club Ballroom at 1201 Fleetwood Drive on April 15 at 6 p.m. There, he plans to reveal a detailed plan for the new city hall, including its look, the cost of the project and how the city government plans to pay for construction.

So far, though, Bennett has been mum on the particulars. During an interview Friday, he declined to share the project's key details. The city council planned to hold a joint meeting with Lookout Mountain's planning commission to discuss the town center project tonight. But Bennett cancelled that meeting Monday.

He told the Times Free Press that the property will hold municipal buildings, such as a city hall, police station and fire department. The area will also contain commercial property, which city officials would sell to a commercial developer.

Bennett said the other key questions will be answered next week.

"We will communicate the cost of the overall project and the timeline for construction and how we intend to pay for it," he said.

City officials have pushed for a new building since early 2008, in the months after a fire destroyed the Mountain Market. The grocery store was located at 1222 Lula Lake Road, in front of the city's current municipal complex, which houses city hall, the fire station and the police station.

The city council hired Phil Walker as a consultant on plans to develop a new city hall in 2008, Bennett said. The local government sent out a survey about a new plan to residents. But construction did not get off the ground, which Bennett blamed on the recession.

The city also held meetings on a new building in May 2012, according to Times Free Press archives. Architect Michael McGowan presented a plan at the time that would have involved tearing down the current government buildings and replacing them with new structures. Those would include a 2,500-square-foot police station, a 2,500-square-foot town hall and a 3,600-square-foot fire station.

The plan also called for two new retail buildings in front of the government complex. The city council would fund that project with a 17 percent property tax hike.

Developer Jimmy Chapin offered another take. He would partner with Greg Voges, who owned 1.3 acres behind the government's property. They would then build a 15,000-square-foot government building, which they would lease to Lookout Mountain for $5,252 a month. They would also build two commercial buildings and an amphitheater into the hill that is behind the current government buildings.

At the time, elected officials insisted that the winning project look like a certain Lookout Mountain institution.

"If we get away from the Rock City style, I quit," Councilman Alexander "Sandy" Gothard said.

According to Times Free Press archives, city officials planned to announce a winning project idea by September of that month. But the city never moved forward.

Bennett said last week that Lookout Mountain officials didn't ever quit on their plan. They just kept moving forward. He hopes they are close to making something real.

"We've actually been working on it literally the entire time," he said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.