Staff photo by Mike Pare / Lamar's restaurant and hotel, which nearly burned down earlier this year, is shown on Thursday, August 4, 2022. The site may be renovated and restored.

A developer is looking at renovating and restoring the longtime site of Lamar's restaurant and hotel, which nearly burned down in a fire earlier this year on M.L. King Boulevard.

"It's a more dynamic and interesting streetscape along that corridor," said Landon Kennedy, an architect for Pfeffer Torode Architecture, about the M.L. King district. "It's definitely trending that way."

A request to rezone the properties at 1018 and 1020 E. M.L. King will go before the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on Monday. The panel also will hear a related request to rezone a tract behind the existing building on East 10th Street for parking.

Kennedy said in a telephone interview that gaining rezoning is the first step to restore and renovate the hotel and restaurant.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga planning board backs zoning change to rebuild, reopen Lamar's hotel and restaurant)

"We'll have to do quite a bit of work to get it where it needs to be," he said.

Kennedy said it's too early to say how many rooms the hotel could hold. Also, it's unknown whether the hotel would be boutique lodging or associate with a national brand, he said.

Lamar's restaurant and hotel, which was built in 1970 but closed in 2017, has remained under the ownership of the Lamar Partridge family. The two-story structure was damaged in March when a fire erupted in the vacant building.

Although no firefighters were hurt battling the blaze, the windows were demolished and, initially, the city feared that one of the walls was compromised even as the fire continued to smolder.

According to the city at the time, structural damage prompted officials to initially condemn the building and post an emergency demolition order on the property.

But engineers and contractors hired by the owners of Lamar's met with city engineers and convinced inspectors to hold off on demolition plans to allow the building to be repaired and the windows boarded up to ensure the structure is safe and in compliance with municipal building codes, news archives show.

The business was one among several hotels along M.L. King, formerly known as Ninth Street or the "Big 9." The corridor served as the epicenter of the Black community and as a mecca for live music and entertainment with stores, restaurants and hotels.

Kennedy said he's the agent for a developer, whom he wouldn't name, who is working with the owner. Partridge, a Chattanooga businessman who was formerly chairman of the River City Co. and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, could not be reached for comment.

Kennedy said there needs to be more study on the condition of what's on the property. The architect said there's a desire to keep a restaurant, but the site probably will be more of a hotel with a restaurant component.

The Regional Planning Agency recommended that the planning commission approve the two rezoning requests. RPA staff said the site sits within the MLK Plan that recommends multi-unit residential land use in the area.

"One of the MLK Plan's goals is to create lively, vibrant atmosphere that draws upon the overall downtown population, employees, tourists and students in addition to residents to support both daytime and evening businesses," the staff said.

East M.L. King is undergoing somewhat of a revival with new businesses and housing opening up.

Recently, Slim & Husky's pizzeria opened in a new three-story retail and office complex at M.L. King and Mabel Street. The structure was raised by a Chattanooga development group including Tiffanie Robinson, Travis Lytle and Robert Parks.

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