Staff file photo / The former John Ross Building is located between Market and Broad streets on Fourth Street and is eyed for a makeover.

This story was updated Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, at 10:55 p.m. with more information.

A multimillion-dollar makeover is slated for a historic downtown Chattanooga building with its walls transformed into glass to help turn it into a logistics industry centerpiece, officials said Thursday.

The long-empty John Ross Building at Fourth Street between Market and Broad is eyed by FreightWaves, a Chattanooga transportation and logistics data and content company, as a video production studio and office space.

John Bowes, FreightWaves' executive vice president, said plans are to make the current four-story structure a center representing the logistics and freight industry.

"We'd make it a Freight Alley center," said Bowes, citing the nickname Chattanooga has received as a result of the cluster of logistics and transportation businesses which have emerged in the city.

The first floor would be leased by FreightWaves for video production involving leading-edge transportation vehicles, such as electric trucks, officials said.

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Staff file photo / The former John Ross Building is located between Market and Broad streets on Fourth Street and is eyed for a makeover.

The remaining three floors could be turned into offices for logistics companies, Bowes said.

Matt Gann, representing building owner Joe Palmer, said that as many as four more stories could be added to the building if the Chattanooga man decides to do so.

Earlier this year, Palmer and a partner paid $3.2 million for the 60,000-square-foot building that was raised in 1929 and for many years was part of a former auto dealership on the block.

The structure sits at one of the highest-profile intersections downtown, with an estimated 40,000 vehicles passing it daily.

Bowes said it could take a couple of years to remake the structure, which may have been in use last as a record storage facility for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee four or five years ago.

Still, Chattanooga architect Bob Franklin termed the location "the premiere site" in the area.

"It's a gateway," he said.

A ground-floor garage door facing Broad Street, which also would be glass, would provide access for trucks used in the videos, Franklin said.

"We'd open the building up with glass," Franklin said.

He said no trailers would go into the building, and the trucks would be brought in during the night so not to disrupt traffic.

Bowes said a TV set would be constructed on the first floor for production.

"We'd make it look like a Bloomberg set," he said. "It's really to promote technology in the logistics space."

Form-Based Code Committee Chairman Jason Havron, whose panel gave the project a green light, noted the structure has been unoccupied for years.

"It would be nice to see something going in the building," he said.

Benjamin Pitts of Herman Walldorf Commercial Real Estate said the structure is "an iconic building."

He said he was told that the block initially held a Buick dealership and later became Newton Chevrolet, which eventually moved to Riverfront Parkway and West M.L. King.

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