The Bend developers are trying to bring headquarters-type jobs to Chattanooga

Special tax district proposal moves to city, county

Contributed rendering / A rendering shows what the former Alstom plant site, now called The Bend, could look like when fully redeveloped.
Contributed rendering / A rendering shows what the former Alstom plant site, now called The Bend, could look like when fully redeveloped.

The developers of the large former Alstom tract downtown said Monday they're talking with two or three national companies looking at moving headquarters-type jobs to Chattanooga.

Officials with Urban Story Ventures made the statement as a city panel agreed to forward a wide-ranging potential $2.3 billion redevelopment plan of the site, and the tax incentives the developer is seeking, to Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials.

Brad Shumpert, executive vice president of the Chattanooga company redeveloping the 120-acre parcel between Riverfront Parkway and the Tennessee River, said the developer is preparing at least two sites for a major commercial user "that I think will bring a lot of great white-collar jobs downtown."

"This is for that top 1% of users we're trying to attract," he said about the so-called Type A office buildings.

"You can throw bait in the river and catch a catfish, but it takes different techniques to catch a marlin," Shumpert said. "We're looking for that next marlin that will come and put a headquarters in Chattanooga."

Urban Story Ventures hopes to use newly generated city and county tax revenue in a special tax district to cover about half the cost of some $198 million worth of public infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, parking and green space.

Dubbed The Bend, the project aims to bring between $800 million and $2.3 billion worth of new development, create at least 2,000 new jobs along with 500,000 square feet of retail, an entertainment venue, about 1,500 new residential units and 14 acres of public parks and green space. About 10% of the housing would be reserved for people making at or below 80% of area median income, officials have said.

Also, the Chattanooga Housing Authority wants to use a portion of the new tax revenue to apply for a $50 million federal grant, assisting with the construction of 1,783 new housing units in the Westside neighborhood.

In addition, if The Bend project spurs $2.3 billion worth of new investment, city and county leaders expect it could produce $345 million for education over 20 years. That includes $195 million preserved for Hamilton County Schools and $150 million from the city and county that would fund downtown education efforts, which could include a new career and technical school at the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Gateway site off M.L. King Boulevard.

Jermaine Freeman, interim chief of staff for Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, said at the meeting that all the public housing at Gateway Towers and College Hill Courts in the Westside would be replaced.

"It will help facilitate redevelopment of this site," he said to the panel. "That could create one of the biggest affordable housing projects the city has ever seen. This is why it is important to the city."

Freeman said the Housing Authority's plan would permit it for the first time to create a true, mixed-income community on the Westside.

Jimmy White, Urban Story Ventures' chief executive, told the panel that one building could go 20 stories high while the other would rise 11 stories. He said the 11-story building is designed and permitted.

"On that building we're down to picking colors on the walls and elevator finishes," White said.

White, responding to questions by board Chair Kerry Hayes, said he's hopeful of breaking ground on the infrastructure for the 11-story building off Main Street around November and a pad for the structure could be ready in six months.

"It's one thing to talk about plans. Once you have a groundbreaking, this becomes real," White said. "There are companies and other developers anxiously awaiting those groundbreakings."

Panel member Jimmy Rodgers asked White about the use of local contractors and construction workers.

White said the company has been around more than a decade and works with local contractors and architects and will do so "to create that Chattanooga feel."

Helen Burns Sharp, founder of the citizens group Accountability for Taxpayer Money, said at the meeting that she is "a fan of this project" and creation of the special tax district

"It's unique and very complicated," she said. "It's a very novel approach that enables them to implement their vision but also carves out some funding for very important city projects and the Housing Authority and county projects."

But, Sharp said, the creation of the tax district, along with others recently formed for the new Chattanooga Lookouts stadium and redevelopment of the DuPont plant site, means there's not money going into the general fund for services such as police, fire and parks.

"Let's be mindful of this," she said.

Sharp also questioned how the city and county plan to protect the public interest if the project experiences a significant problem and if there will be "clawback language" in the development agreement.

Urban Story Ventures already has attracted a number of companies to The Bend, including Australia-based Novonix, which manufactures battery materials to support electric vehicles.

White and Chattanooga hotel developer Hiran Desai bought the parcel from GE Power for $30 million in 2018.

In 2019, after a lengthy planning effort, the company revealed other possibilities for the tract, including housing, hotels, offices, a canal, a food hall, a music venue, child care center and more.

"We're creating a beautiful campus to live, work and play," White said in an interview at the time.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

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