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Staff file photo by Tim Barber / This aerial file photo shows the former Alstom manufacturing site on the east bank of the Tennessee River. Plans are to turn the 112-acre tract into a mixed-use development.

The developer of the former Alstom site on Chattanooga's riverfront says his group is pushing ahead with leasing for a planned eight-story office building in spite of the coronavirus.

"We're seeing folks coming from other markets," said Chattanoogan Jimmy White, citing a desire by some companies to avoid the New York area and California due to the impact of the coronavirus there. "COVID-19 exposed all their weaknesses."

White, who with local hotel developer Hiran Desai is remaking the 112-acre Riverfront Parkway tract into a mixed-use complex called The Bend, said the planned office building is estimated at costing up to $50 million. It would be about 192,000 square feet in size and go up near a proposed extension of Main Street into the property, he said.

"It would have river views from every floor," said White, adding that the tower would sit near a proposed park on the property. "It would have a roof-top amenity."

Just last week, another development group unveiled plans for two medical office buildings at The Bend — the first from-the-ground-up structures planned for the site near downtown's core.

David Hudson of Artech Design Group, representing developers John Foy and Todd Phillips, said the two medical buildings would be built in phases on the tract, also near Main Street.

Work is slated to start this fall on the medical offices, which are to open in summer 2021. The buildings last week received approval from the city's Form-Based Code Committee along with a number of street grid requests from developers to help clear the way for both projects.

White said that work on the eight-story building is expected to start next spring. He said he's negotiating with a group out of New Jersey to help fill some of the space in the building along with a couple of other office users.

"With everything going on in New York and California, Tennessee looks like a good market for the future," said White. He cited quality of life, affordability, and no income tax in Tennessee.

Health care, insurance and other businesses are eyeing the planned building, White said.

Also, the developer said he's in discussions about bringing new manufacturing jobs back to the former turbomachinery plant which had been run by Alstom, which invested about $280 million in the factory to make turbines in 2010.

In addition, there are talks with developers about construction of new single-family homes and condominiums on the Cameron Harbor side of the site, he said.

White said the medical offices are slated to bring about 70 jobs to The Bend. Those would add to the 340 workers who are already on the property, which currently holds business ventures such as Micronics Engineered Filtration Group and Team Title Services.

White's group purchased the former Alstom parcel for $30 million in 2018 from GE Power, which acquired the plant after a deal with Alstom and decided to close the facility.

White, a partner in several other real estate ventures in the city, 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 Chattanooga and Hamilton County and spur more than 5,000 jobs.

A lengthy planning effort revealed a range of possibilities for the tract, including a potential 20-story building. Other uses include townhomes, workforce housing, a 10,000-square-foot food hall and music venue, a canal, brewpub, child care center and more.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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