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Staff photo by Mike Pare / A four-story building is planned for the intersection of Broad and 26th streets across from the RaceWay convenience store.
"It will activate everything else." — Chattanooga developer Hiren Desai about a proposed new building in the South Broad area

A four-story building holding potential housing, office or retail space — or even a hotel — is planned for a high-profile tract in the South Broad area near the former U.S. Pipe foundry property.

The multimillion-dollar structure at Broad and 26th streets would be the first of an array of new development planned in the Southside Gardens neighborhood where Chattanooga developer Hiren Desai and business associate Jimmy White own 49 parcels.

"It will activate everything else," said Desai about the initial project. "The corridor between Interstate-24 and St. Elmo is a whole pocket of growth we'll see soon."

The Broad and 26th Street site won a variance from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on Monday.

Tom Bartoo, president of Method Architecture, said the structure is like two buildings but is considered as one because they're connected. He envisioned four stories facing Broad and then three levels in the rear portion.

The structure was put at 27,400 square feet, but Bartoo said that figure could grow or shrink by 10%.

"It will be a catalyst," he said about site, which also holds two adjoining building pads.

Desai said the four-story structure will be "mixed use" holding potentially residential, offices, and retail.

"It could even be a hotel," he said. "It's a blank canvas."

Planning Commission member Jason Farmer said the site is zoned Urban General Commercial and the building is going up against the street, which neighbors wanted a proposed Publix supermarket nearby to go.

"Your project is the essence of UGC," he told Bartoo.

Desai, who is chief executive officer of Chattanooga-based 3H Group Hotels, said work could start next year on the Broad Street parcel. After that project, potential single-family housing in the neighborhood could go up, he said.

Desai said the city is planning a major upgrade of 26th Street between Broad and Market streets.

The city is planning to spend about $1 million to create an enhanced five-block connector for pedestrians and cyclists to better link Howard School and Broad Street.

Also, on the nearby U.S. Pipe/Wheland foundry property, a plan approved by the city last year includes a potential new multi-use ballpark anchored by the Chattanooga Lookouts.

At the same time, just a few weeks ago, reports surfaced that Major League Baseball is proposing that its minor leagues be reduced from 160 teams to 120, beginning with the 2021 season, and Chattanooga is one of the franchises at risk.

The 128-page South Broad plan was issued last year after a series of public meetings in fall 2017 that drew several hundred people to provide a vision for that area's future.

The Chattanooga Design Studio report foresees a lot of new housing along with commercial and retail space, upgraded parks, streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure, including a new minor league ballpark and entertainment facility to serve as a catalyst for development.

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

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