Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ The north building of the Lucey Boiler plant stands just east of the National Cemetery. Southern Spear plans to buy the Lucey Boiler plant site, located at 901 S. Holtzclaw Ave. where it will build a mixed-use development. The Times Free Press toured the site on September 26, 2019.

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Lucey Boiler site

The attraction are these 100-year-old buildings.

Sean Compton calls himself a fan of history. But he's also a businessman and developer.

Compton plans to bring those interests together at a proposed new mixed-use project off of South Holtzclaw Avenue in a potential $20 million development.

Compton, of Chattanooga, wants to reuse the longtime Lucey Boiler industrial site and turn it into a location for new townhomes, retail-and-event space and possibly a boutique hotel.

"The attraction are these 100-year-old buildings," said Compton, the chief executive of Chattanooga structural steel contracting company Southern Spear Ironworks. "God's not making any more old buildings."

Located on the edge of the Highland Park neighborhood and across Holtzclaw Avenue from the National Cemetery, the property has held an industrial presence since 1906, said Craig Troxler, president of Lucey Boiler. That company is still operating at the 7-acre tract, having done so since 1961, but it has the site under contract to Compton.

Troxler has said Lucey Boiler, which employs six people, could move to another location, but that's undecided.

Compton, 34, said that plans are to revamp the 52,000 square feet of space which spans several existing buildings on the parcel which also borders Greenwood Avenue.

Compton said he lives only a few blocks away and for years has passed the site while walking his dog. The property came on the market and he saw the opportunity to remake it just as some former manufacturing locations off Holtzclaw have undergone makeovers.

"I see great potential in this area," Compton said.

He foresees the construction of 15 to 20 townhomes facing Greenwood, with two- or three-bedroom units about $300,000 each. They'll sit on the higher end of the property so that each home will have views of the site from the back, said the developer.

In one of the larger existing buildings, plans are to turn it into a food hall, holding a variety of restaurants in a food court, he said. Also in one of the buildings, he sees a possible brewery.

"We want to make it a destination place," he said.

A boutique hotel also could go on the tract, though he'd work with a lodging company to see that piece come to fruition, Compton said.

In addition, he'd like to play up the area's railroad history, noting a rail spur runs by the property.

"We're working on train-themed items of history on exhibit," said Compton, who was reared in Florida but came to Chattanooga four years ago. "We want to play on the history of the property."

His wife, Lizz, a broker with Keller-Williams Realty, said it took some discussion before she fully came on board with the project. But, it was hard to argue with the concept, she said.

Southern Spear has already won a rezoning recommendation from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and it will likely seek final approval before the City Council in October, Sean Compton said.

He'd like to move ahead early next year on the project, but plans are to start leasing within the next couple of weeks.

"We'd like to go as fast as we can go," Compton said.

Holtzclaw Avenue and the East Main Street corridor in general between Central and Dodds avenues are seeing an array of new developments.

Just down Holtzclaw, the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer will anchor the commercial part of a planned $40 million redevelopment of an old manufacturing site. An empty, 8-acre Rock-Tenn plant will become new commercial and residential space at the hands of a Nashville developer.

Also on Holtzclaw, M&M Industries in Lookout Valley, a maker of plastic pails and containers, has undertaken a $42.7 million expansion into an existing manufacturing site.

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