Site of Chattanooga Lookouts stadium could hold 12-story buildings as owner seeks zoning to spur development

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Interstate 24 winds past the former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site in 2022. The property is to hold new development with a Chattanooga Lookouts stadium as the centerpiece.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Interstate 24 winds past the former U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site in 2022. The property is to hold new development with a Chattanooga Lookouts stadium as the centerpiece.

The owner of the 127-acre site that will hold the Chattanooga Lookouts new stadium is seeking a rezoning of the land that would allow buildings as high as 12 stories and more dense development around the facility.

The old U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry property in the South Broad District is now zoned manufacturing or urban general commercial, and the request by landowner Perimeter Properties is for form-based code zoning similar to that in much of downtown.

The property owner, Lookouts executives and city and Hamilton County officials have said they foresee a vibrant mixed-use area around the stadium that would hold commercial and retail space and residences.

But that vision for the area doesn't align with the existing zoning, according to the landowner.

"The standard zoning code for the city does not allow for this type of density, setbacks, mixture of uses and flexibility in design considerations," said an application to rezone the site to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

The "common sense down-zoning changes we have proposed are obviously needed to transform dilapidated foundry land into the live-work-play district our community has embraced," Perimeter Properties spokesperson Andy Stone said.

"The South Broad District continues to earn tremendous attention and investment as our community works hard to deliver more businesses, homes, restaurants and entertainment options to our region," he said in a statement.

The Regional Planning Commission is expected to hear the request in September.

According to the rezoning plan, buildings will vary in footprint and height, with structures rising up to 12 stories.

The zone is intended to hold a variety of residential, retail, service and commercial buildings and uses in a pedestrian-friendly environment, the proposal said. Lots could hold single-unit detached and attached structures, multiunit buildings, hybrids as well as those that are commercial and public.

"Although buildings are allowed to be exclusively residential or nonresidential in use, the vertical mixing of uses is strongly encouraged," the application said.

  photo  Contributed Image / The area in brown shows the South Broad District property on which new zoning is sought. The planned Chattanooga Lookouts stadium would go on about 8 acres of the 127-acre tract, with most of the rest available for redevelopment, officials said.
 
 

 

CHESTNUT STREET KEY

Chestnut Street would serve as a key artery in the area, and new streets would prioritize movement of pedestrians and bicyclists under the proposal.

Streets would frame a pattern of mid-sized to small walkable blocks, the application said. Typical blocks could hold sidewalks, bike paths, street trees, on-street and surface parking, and landscaping, it said.

The network of streets would transition from wider lanes and parking to narrower and increasingly pedestrian and bicycle friendly as it moves internal and closer to the Tennessee River, according to the application.

Parking will be primarily provided off-street, in surface lots and in structures, along with some on-street, the proposal said. When parking is provided, there are no requirements that spaces be on the site of the building they serve.

Meanwhile, a parks and open space zone is intended to preserve and enhance land as permanent outdoor space, according to the application. Such space is intended to be unoccupied or predominately unoccupied by buildings or other impervious surfaces, it said.

STADIUM SITE PICKED

Developers of the planned replacement for the existing Lookouts facility downtown already have chosen a footprint between West 26th and West 28th streets on the parcel. The site will maximize the reuse of its historic foundry buildings in the design, they said earlier.

"They will make it different than any other minor league stadium," said Jim Irwin, president of Atlanta-based New City Properties and the master developer of the tract.

Some of the 5,000 to 6,000 permanent seats for the proposed multiuse facility will be incorporated into one of the existing foundry structures on the first baseline, he said.

Also, the ballpark will be situated so game-day patrons will have their backs to the late afternoon sun and solve a key complaint about the current AT&T Field, Irwin said.

In addition, plans are for one of the envisioned new buildings around the stadium near Interstate 24 to offer a signature welcoming gateway into Chattanooga for motorists coming from Nashville, he said.

Jason Freier, managing owner of the minor league baseball club, said earlier that the ballpark will have a 360-degree concourse around the field for spectators, unlike AT&T Field.

"New ballparks have more social seating," he said, permitting up to 9,000 or so patrons into the stadium for events.

Additionally, the playing field itself will be lowered from between 14 feet to 20 feet below grade so the concourse is on ground level. That way, people on the first floor or two of buildings that go up around the facility can look into the field and not into steel structures, Freier said.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Sports Authority created by the city and county would issue up to $79.5 million in bonds to fund construction of a new stadium, officials have said. But rising inflation is a concern, and it's uncertain when the panel will go out to the bond market, they said.

A more firm cost of the stadium will be known later this year, Irwin said.

Excavation could start at the site this year, and a target for opening for the Lookouts' spring 2025 season is on track, he said.

Plans are to create "a ring road" around the stadium to move traffic on event days, building on the area's existing transportation network, Irwin said.

"We've been thinking of how do you get 2,500 cars in and out," Irwin said, adding that the aim is to unlock the development potential of the foundry property that's not part of the ballpark.

Perimeter Properties officials have said they're looking to donate about 8 acres for the stadium.

In 2022, the city and county approved creation of a special tax district around the planned stadium. Most of the new property tax revenue from the district, along with Lookouts' lease payments, sales taxes, parking revenues and $1.4 million each from the city and county, will pay debt service on 30-year bonds for the project, officials said.

With proposed and new investment around the stadium, upwards of $1 billion or more in new development could go in the area, officials have said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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