GE Power sells former Alstom manufacturing site in Chattanooga for $30 million

GE Power sells former Alstom manufacturing site in Chattanooga for $30 million

Investor group buys Riverfront Parkway property

June 7th, 2018 by Mike Pare in Breaking News

The Alstom plant is seen from the Republic Centre building Thursday, May 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Republic Centre is the tallest building in Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

This story was updated June 7, 2018, at 11:01 p.m. with more information.

“I can't overstate how unique that property is, particularly the turbine manufacturing and assembly site.”
Charles Wood, vice president of economic development, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

One of Chattanooga's biggest landowners just got bigger with the $30 million purchase of 94 acres of riverfront property making up the former Alstom manufacturing site.

A group led by Chattanooga real estate investor Jimmy White has bought the Riverfront Parkway tract from GE Power that for many years was known as Combustion Engineering and employed thousands of people.

White's group, West End Property, is expected to join the Alstom site, which includes a pair of vacant manufacturing plants, with an adjacent tract he and business partners earlier purchased. That tract is where windtower maker Aerisyn formerly operated at the end of West Main Street.

White didn't return phone calls Thursday. But, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has said the Alstom property could have industrial and commercial uses, or it could hold multi-family residential units.

Charles Woods, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development, said that business group will continue to market the Alstom site to potential users.

Alstom Power took over the former Combustion Engineering plant on the Tennessee River in 2007 with hopes of reviving production of nuclear plant components, but after investing more than $300 million to improve the plant, Alstom shut down the facility in 2016.

Alstom Power took over the former Combustion Engineering...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

"I can't overstate how unique that property is, particularly the turbine manufacturing and assembly site," he said.

Alstom spent about $300 million late last decade building that facility to make turbines for an expected renaissance of the nuclear industry which never arrived. Another adjacent plant that made tubing panels for boilers and power generation facilities would appeal to a number of business sectors, Wood said.

Also, there's a large office building on the property, he said.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he has met with White's group on a couple of occasions and discussed possibilities of what could occur on the site.

"We'll try to help them any way we can to realize the success they're looking for. It's an important piece of property," he said.

Coppinger said there were no specific discussions of potential incentives related to future uses because the group didn't own the property yet.

According to the city's Office of Economic and Community Development, no plans have been submitted for the property. Also, the group hasn't engaged the city about incentives or assistance with any future development, the department said.

Helen Burns Sharp, founder of the citizens watchdog group Accountability for Taxpayer Money, said a sale is potentially good news if the buyer continues the Combustion and Alstom tradition of an employment site with well-paying jobs.

"We have very few industrial sites available in Hamilton County. It would be poor public policy to rezone this 90 acres for more apartments," she said. "We would not be surprised if local investors pressure our elected officials to rezone it to allow a continuation of the Cameron Harbor model."

Cameron Harbor just north of Alstom holds an array of new apartments, townhouses and condominiums, with more going up.

White is a Chattanooga resident and native, having graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2002. In addition to the Aerisyn property, he has interests in the Dome Building, Edney Building, James Building, Osborne Office Park, and King Street Storage.

White, in an interview last year, said the real estate investment business had assembled 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space in Chattanooga in a relatively short period, having partnered with other businessmen including Hiran Desai of the 3H Group hotel company.

"Chattanooga has situated itself in a great spot for the next 10 to 20 years," he said, citing job growth and expansion of companies such as Volkswagen and Amazon. "We're starting to see the ripple affects."

About 35 years ago, the manufacturing site, then owned by Combustion Engineering, had nearly 6,000 workers and was Chattanooga's largest employer making fossil fuel and nuclear steam generating equipment.

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


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