Compromise reached for South Broad Street Publix could clear the way for new Chattanooga store

Compromise reached for South Broad Street Publix could clear the way for new Chattanooga store

April 29th, 2019 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Staff file photo / A cashier at the North Market Street Publix supermarket scans items for shoppers at the store in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

A compromise has been reached that could help clear the aisles for a proposed Publix supermarket on South Broad Street.

An agreement by the city and the store's developer shifts the proposed project more toward the street and puts small retail space against South Broad, officials said.

Document: South Broad Street Publix Layout

This is a new site plan of the proposed Publix supermarket on South Broad Street.

The new layout is similar to the company's North Market Street unit, they said, but also will include the developer building a section of the Tennessee Riverwalk through the property, along with landscaping on South Broad.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the new design includes space for amenities, such as small-scale retail, as well as an emphasis on pedestrian safety with accessibility and connecting the city with the completion of the Riverwalk.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Chattanooga Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to hear the newest South Broad Street Publix proposal on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Development Resource Center.

"We appreciate the good faith effort and patience from the developer to build a high-quality store that fits within the fabric of the community plan," Berke said.

In addition, redesigned entrances to the property will promote safety rather than high-speed traffic, according to the new plan.

Blythe Bailey, who heads the Chattanooga Department of Transportation, said his role was to help the project move closer to the the Urban General Commercial zoning in which the property sits.

"People have been working together to make the project better," he said, adding that the "process still needs be followed."

The new proposal is expected to go to the Chattanooga Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance on Wednesday, when the public can comment, as well as through the building permitting process.

Jim Johnson, a community activist who took part in the discussions, said people collaborated, compromised and were pragmatic.

"It is the model for how collaboration and development should happen, but the collaboration started far too late in the process," he said.

The 32,000-square-foot Publix was originally proposed about a year ago on a 4-acre tract that for many years held the Mt. Vernon restaurant.

The developer, George Chase of Alliance Realty Services, initially sought a zoning change from Urban General Commercial to C-2and then later three variances. But, a number of people indicated they wanted the developer to move at least some of the store up against South Broad for a more urban look, along with other changes to the proposal.

Last November, despite pleas from a Chattanooga city councilman and former Hamilton County commissioner, the city's Board of Zoning Appeals refused the developer's plan for the store by a 5-4 vote. In December, the panel voted to re-hear the case.

Bailey said the three variances sought in November appeared to offer a project that didn't meet the intent of Urban General Commercial.

"We asked them to work to come closer," he said, with the parties talking and gaining the help of community members. "The developer reacted positively to suggestions and it's getting closer to [Urban General Commercial]."

Johnson cited the willingness of Lakeland, Florida-based Publix to talk, but there was a danger the grocer would walk away from the project.

"This is probably as far as they would go," he said. "If we pushed further, it's likely they would consider pulling out entirely. We moved the dial at least a little bit."

Publix operates five other units in metro Chattanooga.

The Mt. Vernon had operated at the foot of Lookout Mountain for 63 years before it closed its doors around Christmas of 2017.

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


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