A gate controls access to a city-owned parking lot at 1200 King St., that developer Hiren Desai offered to buy for $134,700 — less than the $195,000 paid a decade ago for the property.

Chattanooga hotel developer Hiren Desai offered the city $134,700 to buy a roughly half-acre parking lot at 1200 King St. on the booming Southside — that the city bought a decade ago for $195,000.

And Desai wanted the city to pay $140,000 over three years to lease parking spaces back from him, so city vehicles could park there.

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Accountability for Taxpayer Money member Franklin McCallie, standing,criticizes developer Hiren Desai's proposal to buy a city-owned parking lot for less than the city paid for it in a 2017 meeting of the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corporation.

That didn't fly with longtime Chattanooga resident Pat Wilcox, a retired editorial page editor for the Chattanooga Times.

"This looks to me like a complete giveaway," Wilcox said at Monday afternoon's meeting of the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. (CDRC). "We would sell it for less than we bought it for? That's crazy. I mean, it's insane."

Desai's offer is just a starting point, city officials told a crowd of about 20 people who packed into a meeting room near city council chambers. Many were from the group Accountability for Taxpayer Money (ATM), including Frank McCallie, one of ATM's leaders, who told the CDRC board he was frustrated and "I don't feel like anybody listens very much."

While the CDRC board voted to accept Desai's proposal, the CDRC voted to negotiate a contract with Desai based on the property's fair market value — not its assessed value of $134,700. Then, the proposed contract will go back before the CDRC board for final approval.

"We don't even know what the final price and the lease agreement would be," said CDRC board member Stacy Richardson, who's Mayor Andy Berke's chief of staff. "Just because we approve this today doesn't mean the property is sold."

Developing the 0.66-acre parcel would allow Desai and business partner Jimmy White to repurpose their King Storage building, a six-story, historic brick building at 1208 King St. into a commercial development with new businesses, including a new microbrewery.

That, plus the 108-room Moxie Hotel that Desai plans to build at Market and King streets, would mean the parking lot's sale would activate $35 million in new Southside development that would create 150 long-term jobs, $780,000 in hotel and sales tax and 88,000 square feet of office space, Desai said in his proposal.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.