New downtown Chattanooga marina could go on the Tennessee River at former Alstom site

Staff file photo / A sliver of mostly undeveloped land sits along the Tennessee River and next to the former Alstom manufacturing site now called The Bend. Part of the narrow parcel shown here could hold a new downtown marina.

The owner of the former Alstom manufacturing site in Chattanooga has bought an adjacent riverfront parcel which officials are seeking to rezone next week for a possible new downtown marina.

A long, narrow 9-acre tract was purchased from food processor ADM and sits directly on the Tennessee River next to the Riverwalk and the 121-acre old Alstom property that is now called The Bend.

While part of the riverfront parcel is currently zoned manufacturing, owner Urban Story Ventures is seeking to rezone the tract and another 4 acres to fit the new mixed-use nature of The Bend.

Nathan Bird, a civil engineer for the firm Ragan Smith, said the idea is to "bring people to the river and the river to the city."

"The whole point is to bring the whole strip into The Bend context area," he said, adding that the riverfront parcel is "conceptionally" viewed by officials as holding the marina.

In 2019, after a lengthy planning effort, Urban Story Ventures revealed possibilities for the entire Alstom tract including manufacturing, housing, hotels, offices, a canal, a food hall, the music venue, child care center and more.

"We're creating a beautiful campus to live, work and play," said Chattanooga developer Jimmy White, who purchased the site along with local hotel operator Hiran Desai from GE Power for $30 million in 2018.

Bird said he's not sure about the size of the marina.

"It's still pretty fluid," he said. Currently downtown, there is a small marina at Ross's Landing and some boat slips nearby at Cameron Harbor.

Bird said there could be a building or two also on the riverfront, though there are "no hard plans" to put them up currently.

But Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency staff is recommending a different zoning than that sought by the developer.

A staff report to the planning commission, which will consider the case on Monday, said that while the city's Downtown Plan supports mixed-use development, the scale of proposed buildings are out of proportion.

Staff recommended a riverfront zone that would limit buildings to six stories in height. Such zoning "has limited commercial uses and no industrial uses which is more compatible with the residential uses and recreational uses along the Tennessee River," the staff report said.

Also, staff cited the possible marina at the site with fuel sales. Although such as use is not in the river zone staff is recommending, it's amenable to making a modification to the code to allow such a use at the site.

"This code modification will have to be discussed in more detail," the report said.

Bird said the development group is limited to what it can do along the riverfront, noting there is a large utility line, a maintenance shed and train tracks.

"The whole idea is to redo that piece and activate that whole area," along with giving people access to the river, he said.

Earlier this year, Urban Story Ventures attracted battery materials maker Novonix to The Bend. The company plans to put manufacturing into an existing 400,000-square-foot building that Alstom had used to make nuclear turbines.

Novonix plans to invest about $160 million and employ 300 workers.

In addition, work is underway laying out a new street grid on the The Bend as preparation is made for more mixed-use with residences and retail to join commercial businesses already attracted to the site, White said.

Also on Monday, the development group is seeking "some code cleanup to bring what is written in code to what is approved in the master plan," Bird said.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.