A long-awaited Publix grocery store on North Market Street in North Chattanooga is a go.
The Northshore Design Committee, after hearing from a packed house urging that work get underway, voted 5-1 on Wednesday night to approve the plans. The committee first began discussing the project in August and it has gone through several different iterations.
Developers will soon be able to begin pulling building permits for the project after the final checkoffs by city staffers.
The final design will be "like an old warehouse" to fit in with the historic neighborhood. It was agreed to double the size of retail flush against a section of North Market from 2,400 square feet to 4,800 square feet.
Architect Blythe Bailey, a former committee member, said further refinements were still needed to make it more of a mixed-use project. He recommended that some 35 parking spaces be taken and set aside for possible future development.
However, committee members said Publix was already going below the 5.5 parking spots per 1,000 square feet it usually requires down to four spaces. The project is slated for 234 spaces north of the grocery building.
Mary Eastman, committee member, said if new retail went into the spot for 35 spaces, those businesses would also need parking.
Architect Phil Whitfield said other changes include use of undulating glass block instead of faux windows. He said the brick would be an old style. He said a bike rack will be included and there are discussions with the city about adding a bike rental site.
Most of those in the overflow crowd at the Development Resource Center, including several committee members, said they can't wait to have the highly regarded store open. Several said the final design is much improved from the first version in August.
Developer George Case said he was "very impressed that this many people are interested in the project." There were 39 speakers over the course of the hearings, including 15 on Wednesday night.
City Council members Sally Robinson and Deborah Scott spoke in favor, saying it will raise property values and bring in new sales and property tax collections. They also said that area is currently a "food dessert" in need of a convenient food store.
Jim Sattler of Forrest Avenue said Walgreen's did not meet all the strict Northshore guidelines, but has been a boost to the community. He said Publix will be even more so.
Garnet Chapin also urged approval, saying he was "glad to see the fake windows go" in the final design.
Developer John Wise spoke in favor, saying the project would benefit everyone in North Chattanooga.
A Signal Mountain resident said he was looking forward to shopping at the new store.
Mayor Ron Littlefield was among city officials at the meeting.