Proposed $15 million Food City in Chattanooga gets zoning OK from panel

Staff photo by Mike Pare / The Food City store at Lee Highway and Shallowford Road is eyed for replacement with a new 54,000-square-foot supermarket nearby, according to the grocer.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / The Food City store at Lee Highway and Shallowford Road is eyed for replacement with a new 54,000-square-foot supermarket nearby, according to the grocer.

A proposal for a new Food City supermarket off Lee Highway drew the OK from a Chattanooga planning panel Monday with the store aimed at replacing an older nearby site.

A 1.55-acre tract on the 6700 block of Ballard Drive, which won commercial rezoning from the panel, will combine with a larger adjacent parcel on Lee Highway to hold the new 54,000-square-foot store, an official said.

"It's a viable location," Tripp Ward, who works for a subsidiary of Food City, said to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.

(READ MORE: Food City eyes another Chattanooga store)

The rezoning of the tract, which belongs to the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home, will need approval of the Chattanooga City Council.

Steve Smith, Food City's chief executive, said in an earlier interview the potential investment could reach $15 million with land, construction and other costs.

"I think it's a very good possibility," he said about the store seen as replacing the existing Food City at Lee Highway and Shallowford Road.

Work on the new store could start by year's end with an opening sometime in 2025, Smith said.

"We're working on a store design now," he said.

Smith said the idea for the new store as a replacement is similar to what Food City did in East Ridge, where in 2022 it opened a supermarket not far from an older unit, which was closed.

(READ MORE: Food City opens expanded East Ridge supermarket)

The Regional Planning Agency staff had recommended the Planning Commission deny the rezoning, saying the request wasn't compatible with its area plan or surrounding land uses. The staff said expansion of a commercial zone would allow large-scale uses such as loading docks and dumpster service.

But the staff also said the area plan is 19 years old and it doesn't provide guidance on the expansion of commercial uses and zoning in the Lee Highway-Shallowford Road area.

The staff said a new land-use plan is under study that will provide future guidance for a change of use or zoning.

The agency staff had recommended denials on two other cases at the Planning Commission meeting Monday at least in part due to existing older area plans, and the panel approved those rezonings anyway.

Greg McCoy, president and treasurer of Tennessee Baptist Children's Homes Inc. in Brentwood, said in an email the facility will continue to operate on Lee Highway.

But, he said, the Children's Home is evaluating its acreage for two reasons.

"One, we take care of a lot of property that we may or may not use," he said. "The pine tree grove (where rezoning is eyed) is one of those areas that is difficult to maintain."

Secondly, the Children's Home is replacing its existing homes across the state with a new model, McCoy said.

'This new model will include individual bedrooms and bathrooms for the safety and well-being of each child we serve," he said. "The cost of this project is quite large, so we are using the potential sale of property to help finance the project."

Also, in addition to the sites for children, the organization's plans are to build a home for its independent living services program, McCoy said.

"Independent living is for our young people who age out of care," he said. "They can choose to stay with us, and we will help them go to college or learn a trade before launching out on their own."

McCoy said that once construction is begun on new homes, it's locking itself into the Lee Highway location where it has operated since the early 1950s.

"We may end up with less property, but we will end up being able to take care of more kids at one time while replacing an outdated infrastructure," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

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