Food City eyes another Chattanooga store off Lee Highway

Staff photo by Mike Pare / Food City CEO Steve Smith, right, takes part in the grand reopening of a supermarket Wednesday in Cleveland, Tenn.
Staff photo by Mike Pare / Food City CEO Steve Smith, right, takes part in the grand reopening of a supermarket Wednesday in Cleveland, Tenn.

Grocer Food City continues to ramp up its growth in the area with a potential new supermarket in Chattanooga and the grand reopening of an expanded store Wednesday in Cleveland, Tennessee.

A company linked with Food City is seeking to rezone vacant land near Lee Highway in Chattanooga belonging to the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home for a new store, said Steve Smith, the grocer's chief executive.

"We're looking at that possibility," he said in an interview in Cleveland. "I think it's a very good possibility."

The potential store would replace an aging supermarket nearby at Lee Highway and Shallowford Road, said the CEO of Southeast Tennessee's biggest grocery operator.

(READ MORE: Food City breaks ground on Broad Street location)

"We're going through the process and see it as a good location," he said about the site off Lee Highway.

Smith put the potential investment at about $15 million with land, construction and other costs.

According to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, the tract where rezoning from residential to commercial is sought is 1.55 acres on the 6700 block of Ballard Drive. The new store could be 54,000 square feet in size and offer a fuel station, the agency said.

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

"Once we begin construction on new homes, we are locking ourselves into this location we have operated on since the early 1950s," he said. "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."

If rezoning of the tract is approved by the Regional Planning Commission in February, work could start by year's end with an opening sometime in 2025, Smith said.

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

He 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 new supermarket not far from an older unit, which was closed.

Cleveland store

Food City added 10,000 square feet and 45 more jobs at an existing store in Cleveland at 255 Ocoee Crossing, Smith said Wednesday prior to a ribbon-cutting.

(READ MORE: Food City investing more in Cleveland area)

The bigger footprint and storewide renovation cost about $5 million to $6 million, he said.

"We expanded everything in the store," Smith said, while adding a Starbucks cafe.

Mike Griffin, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, said at the event that Food City continues to invest in the county.

"They're real active in the United Way," he added.

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks presented an American flag to Smith, which he said had flown over the state Capitol.

Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis cited at the event the commitment Food City is making to the area, mentioning another store under construction in Cleveland and still another in neighboring Polk County.

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

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