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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Austin Hatcher Foundation Chairman Dr. Jim Osborn speaks Thursday morning at the groundbreaking for the new location of the organization on S. Holtzclaw Avenue. Osborn's wife, Amy Jo, left, is president of the foundation.

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Austin Hatcher Foundation

This center represents a commitment to our community over the next five years of $10 million.

Thirteen years ago, Austin Hatcher Osborn was born in Chattanooga. Nine weeks later, he died of an aggressive form of pediatric cancer.

But on Thursday, the foundation that his parents created took a key step as officials broke ground on a 33,000-square-foot facility aimed at taking the entity to a new level of service.

"The whole foundation is powered by passion," said Chattanooga physician Dr. Jim Osborn at the 1601 S. Holtzclaw Ave. site where the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer will anchor the commercial part of a planned $40 million redevelopment of an old manufacturing site.

On what would have been Austin's 13th birthday, Osborn and his wife, Amy Jo, laid out the future for the foundation.

Demolition work to makeover the former Rock-Tenn plant is slated to start in a month. Plans are to move in around early 2020, shifting the foundation from its current East 11th Street location and providing room to grow the work that the nonprofit provides to children with cancer and their families.

The facility will hold a new Education Advancement Center, and will add occupational therapy and other services. Plans are to have music and art therapy and to use part of the new space for a "Gallery of Hope." It will hold artwork from those affected by cancer, according to the foundation.

In addition, the facility will hold an in-house auto garage to permit youth to work with tools.

Jim Osborn, an orthopedic spine surgeon, said the foundation has provided services to more than 80,000 people across the United States since it began.

In 13 years, the foundation has funded $8 million of services and expenses in Chattanooga, he said. Some 66 percent of that figure has come from Chattanoogans, Osborn said.

The new facility is a $3.2 million investment, and expenses for services to families over the next five years are expected to hit $7.5 million.

"This center represents a commitment to our community over the next five years of $10 million," Osborn said.

Amy Jo Osborn said the new building will take everything the foundation is already doing and make it bigger.

She said the occupational therapy facility will help provide "a trade they can do the rest of their lives."

Also, the Gallery of Hope will be "a place for anyone and everyone affected by cancer. Art is a way of expressing feelings and getting out emotions."

Michael Kenner, the Nashville developer behind the project, said he initially had plans to put up 33 townhomes on the site.

"Jim came to me and made an offer I couldn't refuse nor would he let me refuse," Kenner said. "My plans changed pretty quickly."

The planned makeover of the empty 8-acre manufacturing site into new commercial and residential space will be one of the biggest projects to date in Chattanooga's hot East Main Street corridor.

Kenner said plans are to have another 25,000 square feet of commercial space along with about 120 residential units.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the groundbreaking was both serious and joyous.

"This is a very serious topic. ... But we also have to have the joy of today and the joy of what has been accomplished by this foundation and what can be accomplished at this location," he said.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he was introduced to the foundation in 2011 and was "immediately stunned at the work they're doing and the vision."

He said the foundation gives people "an opportunity to increase their quality of life that they wouldn't have had it not been for the Austin Hatcher Foundation."

Patricia Kasselbaum, the foundation's director of clinical services, said the foundation has served children and families in 42 hospitals in 28 states.

"Today, with this additional space and with God's blessing, we can do more," she said.

Kenner's development group contributed one-third of the purchase price of the building, according to the foundation. The foundation said that additional partners are Modus Build, Hefferlin + Kronenberg Architects, First Tennessee Bank, and Second Story Properties, and it's working to secure new funds for the project.

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

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