Chattanooga's Alstom new owners eye industrial, residential, retail, offices for 112-acre riverfront parcel

Chattanooga's Alstom new owners eye industrial, residential, retail, offices for 112-acre riverfront parcel

July 1st, 2018 by Mike Pare in Local Regional News

Jimmy White, president of Urban Story Ventures, LLC, talks of the possibilities for usage of the largest crane on the Tennessee River at the former Alstom property.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Huge buildings presently sit empty at the former Alstom manufacturing plant on Riverside Dr.

Huge buildings presently sit empty at the former...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Calling the vacant Alstom site Chattanooga's biggest riverfront revitalization project since Ross's Landing was remade over a decade ago, the tract's new owners say they aim to put people and jobs back on the sprawling parcel.

In new, preliminary plans, one of the two plants on the 112-acre tract on the Tennessee River will stay as the owners target an industrial user to eventually restart production, said Chattanooga real estate developer Jimmy White.

Meanwhile, the oldest production facilities on the north end of the site will be torn down, he said. That side of the parcel will be marketed to office users as light industrial space or as potential retail, hotel and residential space, he said.

"The fact that we've got developers flying in from all over the Southeast says a lot about this market," said White, who with Chattanooga hotelier Hiren Desai last month bought the Alstom manufacturing site for $30 million from GE Power.

White said the ownership group, West End Property LLC, is looking at hiring a land planning firm soon to help Chattanoogans "reimagine" the historic property where more than 6,000 people once made equipment for the fossil fuel and nuclear power industry.

Dubbing the Riverfront Parkway location the city's new West End, the owners said plans are to make the site a model for mixed-use projects that include industry alongside residential, retail and recreational areas.

For example, they've already begun looking for tenants to lease the 200,000 square feet of office space which the owners said is "move-in ready."

In addition, plans are to extend Main Street through the site all the way to the Tennessee River, such as what's planned for M.L. King Boulevard, which will border the property.

A Main Street extension will help create more connections to the Tennessee Riverwalk, which already crosses the Alstom site, the owners said. White said he hasn't talked to the city about it helping to fund the Main Street extension project.

Desai termed the infrastructure on the Alstom parcel "unlike any other property in the Southeast."

"We see the West End as the next frontier for Chattanooga, and its revitalization is going to attract jobs and visitors from all over," he said.

Charles Wood, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development, said there's a lot of use left in the property, and he'd want to see new jobs on the site.

Wood said that having a local group in control is likely more advantageous than an outside corporation such as GE Power. That company obtained the Alstom facilities a few years ago when it bought France-based Alstom's power operations. GE Power later shut down the Chattanooga facilities and cut more than 200 jobs.

"It's a very unique asset," Wood said about the site. "There's not anything comparable in the Southeast U.S."

White noted the $300 million factory that Alstom built there a little more than a decade ago. That facility was designed to make turbines for a renaissance in the nuclear industry that never came. The ownership group will market the empty plant to potential new users.

"We're looking for the next big industrial guy in town," White said.

A nearby crane located on the river is the largest such inland equipment in the Eastern United States, according to the owners. That could be opened up for use to local companies, White said.

He said the property has all the infrastructure needed for any business, much of it hidden away in a labyrinth of tunnels which run beneath the site.

"We're very blessed to have it," White said.

White is a Chattanooga resident and native, having graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2002. He returned to Chattanooga and he and his partners have bought up a variety of properties, including the Edney Building downtown, the former Osborne Office Park in Brainerd and a tract adjacent to Alstom that held wind tower maker Aerisyn.

The real estate is managed and marketed under Urban Story Ventures.

White said the real estate investment business had assembled 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space in Chattanooga in a relatively short period.

About 35 years ago, the Alstom manufacturing property, then owned by Combustion Engineering, was Chattanooga's largest employer and made fossil fuel and nuclear steam generating equipment.

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

ALSTOM TIMELINE

* 1888: James Casey and M.M. Hedges bought property from creditors of a defunct iron company and formed the Casey-Hedges Co. Its business was the making of small boilers.

* 1889: Patrick Walsh and Michael Weidner set up the Walsh-Weidner Co. to produce pressure vessels, tanks, fire tube and water tube boilers.

* 1928: The two companies consolidated and became known as the Hedges, Walsh, Weidner Co. After that, Combustion Engineering purchased the new organization.

* 1956: Combustion’s Chattanooga facilities occupied about 100 acres and more than 1.5 million square feet of floor space.

* 1989: Combustion is swallowed by Asea Brown Boveri.

* 2000: Alstom buys the boiler and fossil fuel business of ABB.

* 2007: Alstom announces plans for a new $300 million Chattanooga plant on Riverfront Parkway.

* 2015: GE buys Alstom Power.

* 2016: GE unveils plans to shut Chattanooga Alstom facilities.

* 2018: Local group West End Property LLC buys the 112-acre site

Source: Combustion Engineering, Alstom