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Staff photo by Mike Pare / Heavy construction equipment sits at the site of a planned new commercial complex near Northgate Mall that will hold new restaurants.

A Buddy's bar-b-q restaurant will join Panera Bread at a new commercial complex going up at the former Firestone auto service center outside Northgate Mall in Hixson, the developer says.

"There will be two buildings side by side," said Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa. "Panera is in one. [Buddy's] is in the other."

Work on the new center has "pretty much started" at the site at the highly visible intersection of Hixson Pike and Highway 153, he said.

Issa said he's talking to interested parties to fill two other spaces in the center as well as a nearby 8,000-square-foot pad.

"We're working with others," Issa said.

Darik Dawes, who is the managing partner for the Buddy's franchisee, said plans are to open the Hixson restaurant in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

"We've always liked Hixson," said Dawes, whose group also put up new Buddy's eateries in East Ridge and in Cleveland, Tennessee, last year.

Dawes said he particularly likes the Hixson Pike and Highway 153 site.

"That's a really great location because of the traffic pattern," he said."We're excited about what's going on and the redevelopment of Northgate Mall."

Both Buddy's, which will fill about 3,500 square feet, and the 4,000-square-foot Panera will offer drive-throughs, Issa said. The new Panera will replace an existing eatery nearby that doesn't have a drive-through.

Dawes, a Hixson High School graduate, said the Northgate restaurant will have seating for 90 patrons inside and another 20 outside.

"We do pretty much everything in-house," he said.

Dawes, 45, said he grew up in the restaurant business as his family was involved with Sonic Drive-ins.

In August, Dawes opened the East Ridge restaurant in the Jordan's Crossing retail complex at Exit 1 in East Ridge near the Bass Pro store. In November, he opened the Cleveland Buddy's on Paul Huff Parkway.

Issa also is involved in a group that late last year purchased the former J.C. Penney store at Northgate Mall with hopes of breathing life into the space by attracting new retail, office or entertainment uses.

Issa is partnering in a joint venture with John Woods, the chief executive officer at asset manager Southport Capital in the city, and mall owner CBL Properties.

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

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