Part of a high-profile block that's a key gateway to downtown Chattanooga could transform from a parking lot to holding housing, entertainment, retail or other uses, an official said Tuesday.
River City Co. has a long-term lease on the three-quarter-acre parcel at Fourth and Chestnut streets near U.S. 27 and is asking developers to offer their visions for the site.
› May 2018: River City Co. seeks ideas for Haney Block site
› July: Submissions due
› August: Project teams interviewed
› September: Negotiation with selected developer
› November: Winning project team announced
Source: River City Co.
"We're open to suggestions of what the market says it needs," said Jim Williamson, vice president of planning and development for the downtown nonprofit group.
The lot wraps partly around the AMC movie theater and takes up nearly half of what's known as the Haney Block. Chattanooga developer Franklin L. Haney years ago had constructed a building that held TVA's map room and other offices before it was torn down.
Henry Schulson, executive director of the Creative Discovery Museum that sits just across Chestnut, said hotels have done well in that area.
"If ... there's a market for it, it helps us," he said. "What's important as we look at the space is to do something that brings more activity to Chestnut Street."
The existing parking lot is often used by museum guests.
"They park there or behind the museum or in another lot," Schulson said. "Any development [at the River City site] has to take into consideration additional parking for this area."
Ultimately, he said, he'd like to see more parking behind the museum.
Williamson said the parking lots it owns or controls are always intended for future development. In fact, the recent completion of an extensive downtown parking study helped clear the way for River City to seeking proposals on the Haney site, he said.
Williamson said current zoning restricts building heights to eight stories on the parcel, but a variance could permit higher uses.
He said the ground level of whatever goes there should bring activity to the sidewalk, whether that means retail, restaurant space or something else.
"This is a real gateway into downtown, the city center and the riverfront district," Williamson said, noting a lot of people travel U.S. 27 into Chattanooga's core on Fourth.
Estimates show that nearly 75,000 vehicles travel U.S. 27 by the Fourth Street intersection each day. More than 26,000 vehicles pass through the Fourth and Chestnut intersection daily, according to River City.
Schulson said that with the way the movie theater faces Broad Street, there's not a lot activity on the Chestnut side of the block. He'd like to see something "family friendly" bring more activity to Chestnut.
River City expects some sort of construction on the site to start next year.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318 or follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.