A possible 20-story landmark tower in the middle of the former Alstom site is eyed by the tract's owners, who on Monday won rezoning approval from a Chattanooga planning panel.
"It would be like a corporate headquarters," said Jimmy White, president of West End Property LLC. White said his group hasn't landed a company for such a high-rise tower yet, but it's talking with businesses which may be interested.
White and business partner Hiren Desai won the OK of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to rezone about 75 percent of the 115-acre parcel off Riverfront Parkway near downtown. The City Council still needs to sign off on the rezoning next month.
White has said the proposed redevelopment of the property could bring $2 billion to $3 billion in investments, add over $11 million in tax revenue annually for the city and Hamilton County and spur about 5,000 jobs.
In March, after a lengthy planning effort, West End Property revealed possibilities for the tract including housing, hotels, offices, a canal, a food hall, music venue, child care center and more. Some manufacturing is slated to remain on the site.
White said some major manufacturers, in addition to operating at the tract, have expressed interest in potentially needing office space as well. The new zoning would permit multiple high-rise structures on the property.
While the Regional Planning Agency staff had questions about building heights and recommended deferring West End's rezoning request, Planning Commission members wanted to move ahead with approval.
Panel member and City Councilman Darrin Ledford termed West End's plans "a fresh, new proposal this city has never seen."
"This is amazing and far-reaching," he said. "I'm worried about losing an amazing opportunity to do something really big. It could put us light years ahead of other cities."
Planning Commission member Barry Payne said some see West End's proposal as precedent-setting.
"Holy cow, I hope so," he said.
Jason Farmer, another panel member, offered a motion to OK the West End rezoning request.
"I'm terribly excited," he said.
Already, the owners of the huge Alstom site are pre-leasing space for a planned 8-story office building off West Main Street, which they're looking to extend to the Tennessee River.
Victor Dover, a principal of Dover, Kohl & Partners, said there's now 330 jobs at several companies on the site. Dover, whose firm designed the plan for the parcel, said some 4,800 people could eventually work on the site.
The rezoning would permit companies and a lifestyle which the city would want to attract.
New plans show that the majority of the site, which the ownership group is tentatively calling "the Bend," would hold commercial, office, residential, civic, entertainment and event space.
White said work on the 8-story office building and a possible Main Street extension is slated to start next year.
"We'll work with the city to turn it into a public road," said White about the artery that now stops at Riverfront Parkway.
White has called the Alstom site Chattanooga's biggest riverfront revitalization project since Ross's Landing was remade over a decade ago.
Manufacturing on the site goes back more than 100 years. For decades, it held Combustion Engineering's operations and later Alstom and GE Power, which shut down manufacturing and then sold the property to White's group for $30 million last year.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.