Food City starts work on $15 million downtown Chattanooga supermarket, mixed-use project

Staff photo by Olivia Ross  / Food City CEO Steve Smith speaks to the audience on Thursday, November 17, 2022. Officials and partners gathered for a ground breaking ceremony at the planned site for the new Broad Street Food City.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Food City CEO Steve Smith speaks to the audience on Thursday, November 17, 2022. Officials and partners gathered for a ground breaking ceremony at the planned site for the new Broad Street Food City.

Food City on Thursday started work on a downtown Chattanooga supermarket at a site that will include townhouses along with retail and office space in a first for the grocer.

"We go where people live," said Food City Chief Executive Steve Smith, citing the growth of the central city and the chance to meet the needs of urban residents and shoppers.

The mixed-use, more than $15 million project will hold a 53,000-square-foot store on a Southside block bounded by Broad, Main, and 13th streets and a greenway, he said in an interview at a ceremonial groundbreaking.

The 5.7-acre site, where Carter Distributing Co. had operated for many years, will include six two-level townhouses on 13th Street as well as 16,000 square feet of commercial space on Broad Street.

Smith said plans are to open the supermarket in late 2023 or early 2024.

"It's not your average supermarket or Food City," he said, adding the store will offer a 115-seat cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Smith said he foresees entertainment options for shoppers and people who live in the area at certain times.

"It will really be an enjoyable place for people to come," he said.

Chattanooga officials have been eager to bring a full-service supermarket to the central city for decades, especially following the closing of the Grocery Bar on Main Street in 2015 after operating only a couple of years and the shutdown of the Buehler's grocery store in the 400 block of Market Street in 2017 after operating 105 years.

Smith said Food City parent K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. has 90 stores in Tennessee and will have 145 companywide by year's end, and the new downtown Chattanooga outlet will be the grocer's first development with a housing component. He said the townhouses will be rental units.

Emily Mack, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co., said the project will act as a catalyst and attract retail services to the area.

"As downtown grows, it serves as an anchor," she told about 50 people at the site, noting the project will attract "neighborhood-serving businesses."

Bob Corker, former Republican U.S. senator who also had served as Chattanooga's mayor, cited Food City's investment in the development that will help people "to work, play and live in the downtown core."


He said the central business district is the civic, cultural and business center of the city, and it "causes the entire region to be successful."

Hamilton County Commissioner Warren Mackey, D-Lake Vista, told the group that Abingdon, Virginia-based Food City chose "a super location."

He said he wanted to assure the grocer, which is the largest in the Chattanooga region by store count, that the county is developing a workforce that will meet its needs.

City Council Chairman Darrin Ledford of East Brainerd said the Food City project "fulfills a critical need for downtown."

"It's an important piece of the puzzle," he said.

Smith said plans are to employ about 250 people at the store. Food City already has grocery outlets nearby in St. Elmo and on East 23rd Street among the some 30 stores it operates in the Chattanooga area.

Smith said the Broad Street site will not offer a Gas N' Go fuel center, adding that the grocer couldn't fit it into the site. But, the company CEO said the store will offer a Starbucks cafe, and a food court will provide a restaurant-quality experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

He said that since Food City came into the Chattanooga area seven years ago with the acquisition of Bi-Lo stores, it has invested more than $250 million.

Food City has 18,000 employees across the company, and 10,300 are shareholders through an employee stock ownership plan, according to the company.

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

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