Chattanooga: Kim White is named CEO of RiverCity

Chattanooga: Kim White is named CEO of RiverCity

May 31st, 2009 by Mike Pare in News

Staff Photo by Tim Barber Charlie Arant, left, sits with the new RiverCity Co. President Kim White inside the downtown office at 850 Market St.

Staff Photo by Tim Barber Charlie Arant, left, sits...

The mantra of downtown Chattanooga's advocates is that they want people to live, work and play in the central city.

Kim H. White, who takes over as RiverCity Co.'s chief executive on July 1, says she does all three.

"Have you heard about my long commute? I live next door in the Lovemans building," she quipped during an interview at her new office overlooking Miller Plaza.

The Chattanooga native, who served on the board of the private, nonprofit downtown redevelopment group, said the top job hadn't entered her mind until she began hearing what focus groups were saying about the entity early in the effort to find a successor to Paul Brock Jr.

"It had me written all over it," said Mrs. White, 49, whose pay package has not been finalized.

She has overseen leasing, management and maintenance of 2 million square feet of real estate, first as CEO for The Corker Group, the company owned by former Chattanooga mayor and Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, and later as CEO of local real estate firm Luken Holdings. Much of that property is downtown.

The RiverCity post allows her to "connect the dots" of the firms and organizations with which she is involved, she said.

Mrs. White is leaving her position as CEO of Luken Holdings Inc., and replaces Mr. Brock, who held the post for four years.

Mrs. White said a need exists for more services and retail downtown.

Mrs. White takes RiverCity's helm at a critical time for the downtown group, which was formed in the mid-1980s.

Downtown has undergone a renaissance that cities across the country have studied, but with that success, some wondered if it was time the group took a different focus.

RiverCity Board Chairman Charlie Arant said it became clear to the search panel charged with finding a new RiverCity leader that Mrs. White has a passion for downtown. The search process drew interest from as far away as California.

"She has a really deep understanding of the issues we face in maintaining the development momentum," Mr. Arant said. "She was the unanimous choice."

About three dozen people were brought in to give RiverCity feedback about its functions, Mr. Arant said, adding that RiverCity officials found the nonprofit needs to do better at telling its story.

"Now it's up to Kim and her team to set their strategy over the next two to three years," the board chairman said.

Some disagreements recently ensued between the city and RiverCity when the group was named as part of a lawsuit related to repairs to the 21st Century Waterfront project. However, Mayor Ron Littlefield said he always has been impressed by Mrs. White, having appointed her to the Erlanger board.

"I think we are all going to benefit from her business ability and good judgment," he said.

Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said there is "no question Kim has the tools to do that job and do it well."

The central business district will continue to be an area of emphasis for the RiverCity, she said.

"It would be great to see a large company take over the Gold Building," Mrs. White said about former BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee headquarters, which is up for sale with the opening of the insurer's $299 million Cameron Hill campus.

While downtown has a number of empty condominiums, she said there is still room for more housing, particularly apartments and lower-end units.

Mrs. White said the vacant 700 block of Market Street is "a great opportunity" for ground-floor retail. But, a dispute between the group and a developer that's boiled over into lawsuit must be settled first, officials said.

RiverCity is financed mostly by revenues from the properties and parking lots it holds. The city contributes some funds for Chattanooga Downtown Partnership activities, Mr. Arant said.


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