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The Mt. Vernon restaurant on Broad Street is seen on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

People worried about a proposed new Publix on South Broad Street peppered project officials with questions Thursday.

But a representative for the developer drew a line in the sand, saying the store is off if the proposal doesn't receive the requested zoning.

"If it doesn't get C-2, the grocer will walk," said Mike Price of MAP Engineers.

What’s next

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission is to meet on Monday at 1 p.m. at the Courthouse.

About 100 people showed up at Calvary Chapel for a community meeting to hear more about the possible 32,000-square-foot Publix store off South Broad near the former Mt. Vernon restaurant.

A number of people who live in the area want the planned store to move up to South Broad, rather than sit in the back of the triangle-shaped lot also bordered by St. Elmo Avenue and West 35th Street.

James Holland of Lookout Mountain said he has seen what the Publix on Chattanooga's North Shore has done for that part of the city. One side of the building, which includes some small shops, sits up against North Market Street.

As far as traffic and shoppers, "it has worked out well," Holland said.

But Derek Blackwood of MAP Engineers said the North Shore site is bigger. That store has 50,000 square feet and 232 parking spaces, compared to just 167 parking spots for the one planned off South Broad.

"We don't have the ability to do a true urban feel that has been requested of us," he said.

Blackwood added that the demographics of the South Broad area don't fit the urban store format.

"You can't put a square peg in a triangle hole," he said.

One woman asked how sure is it that Publix would follow through if the project receives the sought-after zoning from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and later the City Council.

Price said there are contracts in place if the rezoning request is approved.

Another questioner said people in the South Broad area have wanted a town center feel to the corridor, and she was critical that the meeting was held just one business day before the Planning Commission is slated to hear the project on Monday.

Earlier this week, RPA staff said the proposed development form of the store isn't compatible with recent city investment in crosswalks and bike lanes at South Broad and St. Elmo Avenue. Those are intended to promote pedestrian activity, the staff said as it recommended that rezoning be denied.

"Building placement is a long-term investment," said the staff. "It sets a precedent for the form in the area."

However, another woman said the store would be "so beneficial. It's so exciting. I'm all for it."

Publix operates five other units in metro Chattanooga, including a new 45,000-square-foot store that opened in March at the Waterside development north of Hamilton Place mall.

The Mt. Vernon had operated at the foot of Lookout Mountain for 63 years before it closed its doors around Christmas of last year.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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