Hamilton County school board advances plan to buy 11-acre Gateway site for use as school

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee property at the Golden Gateway is seen from the 10th floor of a nearby hotel on May 5.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee property at the Golden Gateway is seen from the 10th floor of a nearby hotel on May 5.


Hamilton County school board members advanced a plan to purchase BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Golden Gateway site, pushing aspirations of building a new public school downtown closer to reality.

The 11-acre property at 401 W. M.L. King Blvd. sits just below BlueCross BlueShield's high-profile Cameron Hill campus. The company put the site up for sale in April as it continues to embrace a shift toward remote work.

The board voted unanimously to pursue the building Thursday. Last month, BlueCross BlueShield announced it had selected Hamilton County's $10 million offer on the property and the Hamilton County Commission approved the purchase in its yearly budget.

"We're not committing to anything there tonight, but I don't see a scenario where we would not want to vote to have some type of school there," Hamilton County Superintendent Justin Robertson said during a school board work session.

The school board is responsible for determining the use of the site.

Since the county expressed interest in the property in early May, county Mayor Weston Wamp has cited the long-shuttered Kirkman Technical High School as an inspiration for the project. Both Wamp and Robertson have noted a new school in downtown Chattanooga could boost career and technical opportunities for students. The district hasn't built a new high school in downtown in more than 60 years.

(READ MORE: Golden Gateway proposal revives hopes for successor to Chattanooga's Kirkman high school)

Wamp's office said in a May news release that the county's interest in the property is part of the Hamilton County school district's effort to save taxpayer dollars through the adaptive reuse of existing facilities. Officials cited the construction of a new Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts and plans for a new school at the former Cigna office building in East Brainerd.

The company has 185,000 square feet of office space in the Gateway property, according to a real estate listing.

After the County Commission approved the purchase, Wamp said in a news release that he expects the transaction to close in the coming months and for BlueCross BlueShield to transfer the property to the county in early 2024. It would be jointly owned by the Hamilton County government and Department of Education.

Contact Shannon Coan at scoan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.


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