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A new neighborhood pizza joint is in the works for North Market Street residents after planners gave the restaurant's rezoning an important recommendation for approval at Monday's planning commission meeting.

Jim Richards, co-owner of a handful of local Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises, wants to turn the 3,700-square-foot Professional Sign Services building at 405 North Market St. into a wood-fired pizza restaurant called Fiamma (Italian for flame) Pizza Co.

He said the goal is to create a family-friendly joint with neighborhood appeal, especially after the recent closing of Hill City Pizza. He said the restaurant will employ about 25 people and represents a roughly $500,000 investment.

"That whole area's changed so much," said Richards. "Taco Mamacita's done so well there. We want to be part of that North Chattanooga neighborhood."

Fiamma will prepare wood-cooked, Neopolitan pizza "the way they've been cooking it since the 1600s," Richards said.

And outside, he hopes to incorporate bocce ball courts and some mixed-seating options, maybe incorporating the existing garage doors into an indoor/outdoor seating area.

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A screenshot taken from Google maps of 405 North Market St. in Chattanooga.

Right now, the building Richards has eyed for his pizza restaurant is zoned M-1 Manufacturing, but he needs commercial zoning in order to open the restaurant.

Richards asked planners to have the property rezoned to C-3 Central Business zoning, which would have resulted in a spot zoning that planning commissioners typically avoid.

Instead, staff at the Regional Planning Agency suggested the property be given a C-7 North Shore Commercial/Mixed Use zoning designation, which will be an extension of existing zones. Planning staff also noted that the C-3 zone is generally recommended for central downtown development.

Richards said Monday he is fine with the recommendation.

The change also pacified worried North Shore residents who said at Monday's meeting they opposed the C-3 zoning.

"The issue was the C-3," said Garner Chafin, a nearby resident. "The issue is parking."

The C-7 North Shore zone was created for the North Shore area and specifically calls for greater pedestrian access to buildings, as well as greater access to transit options. The zoning specifically promotes pedestrian activity "over convenience for the motorist."

"I think C-7 is appropriate for that area," said Chafin.

Planning commissioners voted in favor Monday of recommending to city council members next month that the rezoning Richards needs be green-lit.

Richards said if the C-7 zoning goes through, he hopes to have Fiamma open by February.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

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