Downtown Chattanooga Food City mixed-use project wins OK from city panel

Staff photo by Mike Pare / The former Carter Distributing Co. site in downtown's Southside is to undergo redevelopment with a Food City grocery store as the anchor.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / The former Carter Distributing Co. site in downtown's Southside is to undergo redevelopment with a Food City grocery store as the anchor.

Food City was welcomed to the neighborhood on Thursday by a downtown Chattanooga design panel as a plan to build a supermarket, townhomes and other commercial space won approval.

"We look forward to this project and we'll continue to listen and move this project forward," said Stephen D. Spangler, vice president for real estate and site development for Food City parent K-VA-T Food Stores Inc.

The city's Form-Based Code Committee endorsed five proposed variances sought by Food City relating to parking, driveways and medians at the planned site of the more than $15 million project on downtown's Southside.

Issues such as signage and lighting are expected to be taken up later with the city concerning the parcel bounded by Broad, Main, 13th streets and a greenway where Carter Distributing Co. operated for many years before closing its facilities there.

No one spoke against the project, which calls for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store. Also, six two-story townhomes will go on 13th Street with that look carrying onto Broad Street and wrap the store. On Broad, plans are to have about 16,000 square feet of retail, office or apartment space, according to the Virginia-based grocer.

City Councilman Erskine Oglesby told the panel that the company's plan is "a good project" that will address a food desert for residents in the area.

"It's close to the Westside," he said. "Up to now they had to go to St. Elmo or East 23rd Street to grocery shop."

Panel member David Hudson asked if the proposed site is on a CARTA bus line.

"I think it will be easy to get CARTA to add a stop," Committee Chairman Jim Williamson said.

Food City had asked the panel to boost the number of parking spots in its planned lot from 119 to 157 spaces.

Spangler said the lot will not only serve grocery shoppers, but those who live in the townhouses, which are to be about 2,100-square-feet each in size. Also, those working or visiting the other commercial spaces also can park in the lot, he said.

Spangler said store hours are expected to run from 6 a.m. to midnight, with no plans to prohibit parking to the public after closing. He said there is expected to be someone related to the store on site during the entire day.

The panel also approved enlarging driveway curb cuts on Broad and Main, and reducing the size of two median islands in the lot.

Oglesby cited the company for listening to people in the city and making changes to its original design, which was a free-standing store.

"I appreciate the fact they listened to the community and what was needed and required for this site," he said, noting the company is "making it walkable and a destination for citizens who come to our city."

Spangler has said site work could start in mid- to late summer on the 5.7-acre tract. The store's opening could be spring or summer 2022, he said.

The company official said the project will be unlike any ever done by the grocery store chain.

"It's a unique product for us," Spangler said.

Steve Smith, president and CEO of Food City, said earlier that the grocer had heard from a lot of downtown customers expressing the need for a supermarket.

"We try to listen to our customers - that's what good companies do - and we recognize that with all of the building and new residents coming downtown there is a demand for such a store," he said.

Food City has grocery outlets nearby in St. Elmo and on East 23rd Street among the some 30 stores is has in the Chattanooga area.

Contact Mike Pare at Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.