Proposal for $21 million 'transformational' St. Elmo project includes mix of shops, residences, offices and more

Proposal for $21 million 'transformational' St. Elmo project includes mix of shops, residences, offices and more

May 3rd, 2019 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

These renderings and site plans show the building phases of a proposed $21 million St. Elmo mixed-use development. / Contributed by Berry Engineers LLC

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Gallery: St. Elmo project renderings

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“Hopefully, it will be well received.”
Property owner Claudia Pullen

A mix of shops, residences, offices, parking and a boutique hotel are included in a proposal for the heart of St. Elmo that its architect calls "transformational" for that part of Chattanooga.

The $21 million project would go on two blocks between Tennessee Avenue and St. Elmo Avenue near the Incline Railway, where the landowner is seeking a zoning change from C-2 commercial to Urban General Commercial.

"I'm super excited," said owner Claudia Pullen. "Hopefully, it will be well received."

The site would include property at 3734 St. Elmo Ave., which formerly held a SunTrust Bank branch for many years. Also, across West 38th Street, a triangular tract that holds the Tap Room Building and 1885 restaurant is included.

Document: St. Elmo mixed-use development

Renderings and site plans for proposed St. Elmo mixed-use development.

Ben Berry, president of Berry Engineers, said the project would be built in phases, with the SunTrust parcel razed first and including a multi-level, 240-space parking garage.

Retail or office space would go on the bottom level facing West 38th, according to plans presented to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

Also on that tract, a possible boutique hotel and added shop space is anticipated.

On the adjacent parcel, both the Tap Room Building and 1885 restaurant would stay, but three- or four-story buildings would be constructed to hold shop space and potential residences, including condominiums.

Berry said the parking garage is key because its construction "allows the rest of that property to be redeveloped into a more dense downtown-style development."

In all, more than 100,000 square feet of office, retail space or residential is planned, not including the possible hotel.

Chattanooga architect Bob Franklin said the two parcels in what he termed "downtown St. Elmo" would be high-quality urban design.

"There's the opportunity for downtown St. Elmo to become a really special place for the first time ever," he said. "This is a transformational project for the St. Elmo community."

Franklin, too, cited the garage, saying it "makes all the rest financially viable. You've got to have parking for them."

He said he believes there's "huge demand" for the new space in St. Elmo, saying the location could become "a unique, wonderful village."

Berry said Pullen recently renovated the Tap Room Building and it's nearly fully leased.

The new zoning, which is expected to be sought at a June meeting of the Planning Commission, would support downtown-type development, he said. The existing C-2 designation is more indicative of Gunbarrel Road in East Brainerd, Berry said.

A long battle was recently fought over zoning related to a proposed development nearby on South Broad Street involving a Publix supermarket. Many people in the area wanted to keep the existing Urban General Commercial zoning there. Just this week, a zoning panel approved that project with one waiver.

Pullen said market research has showed, with all the tourism generated by the Incline Railway, Rock City and Ruby Falls, a boutique hotel is something the St. Elmo area could support.

She said the entire project, which likely would be built out over several years, is close to her office. Her husband works at a nearby animal hospital, Pullen said.

"I hope it will be as interesting to all the people as it is to me," she said.

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