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A Hayward Baker Geotechnical Construction worker operates a large drill and removes excess dirt after drilling a foundation hole on the property of the old Union Gospel Mission at Main and Market streets on Monday.
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Planned development on corner of Main and Market streets.

There are spray-painted construction symbols up and down the sidewalk, and two enormous bores are puncturing the red clay surface that has for so long been the corner lot at South Market and East Main streets.

At last, it's a start on Wise Properties' four-story, 75,000-square-foot mixed-use building that will house commercial storefronts along two Chattanooga thoroughfares and 63 apartments on the floors up top.

And progress is a welcome sight, say neighbors of the new development. The new retail and apartment complex will be one of the biggest additions to Main Street in decades and provide a new anchor to a key gateway to downtown Chattanooga.

Ryan Walker, a student at Chattanooga Woodworking Academy, thinks the development will "help all the other property owners and businesses because it will bring more people to Main Street."

"Vacant lots are unhealthy," he added.

Which would make the block at South Market and East Main a sickly one at the moment.

Currently, all but one of the new mixed-use building's block mates are empty. A store front to the immediate east is vacant. Two buildings to the south are, too. So is the old Spanish-looking former YMCA building to the southeast.

The only spot currently in use is Lift 1428, a marketing, innovating and design company with a storefront on Main Street.

But maybe this new development is a sign of things to come.

"We see the Southside as turning into something," said Cliff Butler, a RE/MAX agent in Chattanooga.

Butler is the listing agent for the Tiny Tigers Universal Center building, one of the vacant buildings to the south of the Wise Properties building that's going up.

And he says the larger brick building next to Tiny Tigers just sold, to the folks who started the Crash Pad hostel a few blocks away.

Additionally, the vacant storefront sandwiched between the Wise Properties project and Lift 1428 is being retooled -- brought back from dereliction to relive its original purpose as a mixed-use building.

Its owner is based in Atlanta, and he plans to remodel the upstairs portion of the building to create a living space for himself and his wife after the two marry this summer.

The ground level will be commercial space. Strauss Construction is handling the remodel.

Kate Gilbert, vice president at Strauss Construction, thinks the project -- plus the Wise Properties development and the recent sale of others on the block -- definitely is an indicator of the future.

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Wise Properties' Main and Market streets development rendering.

"We've seen a lot of activity there," she said.

Still, there are potentially hurdles to overcome.

For some, there's a concern about the parking situation.

But there will plenty, says Amy Donahue, RiverCity spokeswoman.

There's street parking, she said. And a handful of business parking lots in the area, plus a Republic lot not too far way. Also there will be some parking exclusively for the Wise Properties development.

"There are a lot of various places to go down there," she said Tuesday. "I think Main Street has fared pretty well in parking."

Butler on the other hand says the only reason he can't sell the Tiny Tigers building is because parking is abysmal.

"Parking is like gold," he said. "Hopefully they're not just going to continue building buildings right now."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.