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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The former Buehler's Market in downtown Chattanooga will become a sports-themed restaurant. The 429 Market St. was purchased by Chattanooga Red Wolves owner Bob Martino.

The owner of the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer team has bought the former Buehler's Market building downtown and plans to put into play a sports-themed restaurant.

Businessman Bob Martino expects to kick in between $3.5 million and $4 million for the project to remake the one-level building at 429 Market St. that has been empty since 2017 when Buehler's shut down after 105 years.

The 6,369-square-foot eatery will undergo remodeling to offer a rooftop bar, outdoor seating, and a stage for live entertainment, according to the Utah real estate developer who brought the professional soccer team to the city in 2019.

"This restaurant will become the heartbeat of all things sports and entertainment in Chattanooga," he said.

The restaurant is to open late this year and should give a shot in the arm to that part of downtown.

Emily Mack, president and chief executive of the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said the concept will provide a new type of experience for local residents and visitors with amenities like the rooftop bar.

"The City Center District is seeing a renewed energy with other additions including over 160 new apartments to be completed at the end of 2021, Food Truck Alley opening along with the momentum from the ONE Riverfront planning process," she said.

Barry White, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Tourism Co. said that new experiences like the proposed development will impact the recovery of the tourism industry from the pandemic.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The former Buehler's Market in downtown Chattanooga has been empty since 2017 and tagged with graffiti. Chattanooga Red Wolves owner Bob Martino is developing the location into a restaurant.

"We look forward to seeing visitors and locals enjoy this new space," White said.

Martino said the restaurant will be "a one-of-a-kind dining experience" for locals and tourists in the heart of the city.

"The unique features and experiences we plan to announce in the coming months will make this the premier destination for lovers of all sports," he said.

Martino is owner of Star Community Builders in Park City, Utah, and the USL One soccer team. While playing 2019 at Chattanooga Christian School, the team built a 5,500-seat stadium in East Ridge where it competed last year's pandemic-shortened season.

Along with the stadium at Interstate 75 and Interstate 24, Martino's complex is to include two hotels, a convention center, a pair of apartment buildings, mixed-use retail space, a parking garage and office complex.

The estimated $125 million in new facilities and amenities is believed to be the largest single investment ever in that city.

East Ridge officials offered the Border Region Retail Development District state sales tax incentive for the project. That allows the city to recapture the growth in sales tax collections within the zone and then plow those funds back into repaying investments in the area, including the $6 million soccer stadium.

The Buehler's property was sold by store owner Charles Morton in 2017 for $1.6 million to a buyer identified as 429 Market Gp.

Morton said at the time that he started at Buehler's as "a sack boy" and had owned the business since 1988.

"It has been my life for 52 years," he said then about the market that ran out of the building next to the Jack's Alley complex.

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

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