River City Company CEO Kim White said Friday that Chattanooga has changed dramatically in the last two decades, but much more change is coming.
She said, "The sky's the limit over the next 10 years. You won't even recognize our city. But our challenge is to keep the authentic Chattanooga."
In a speech to the Civitan Club, she said when she took over her current post she faced over a million square feet of unleased retail space downtown. A majority of that has now been leased, she said.
She said she is awaiting "a really cool" transformation of the former Bijou Theater with a climbing wall on the Broad Street side that will be lit up at night.
Ms. White said downtown has over 100 local restaurants, "and with that many it's still hard to get in one on a weekend night." She said one of the latest is Community Pie by Miller Plaza.
She said three million visitors come to Chattanooga each year and many are interested in rock climbing, which she said is the third fastest rowing sport. "We are out Bouildering Boulder," she said.
Ms. White said one focus is to connect downtown with UTC and "get the students off the hill.:She said many visit downtown and never know that Chattanooga is a college town despite 12,000 students being nearby..
Another, she said, is expanding the free electric shuttle. She said she would like to see it reach the burgeoning Main Street section as well as tie in with UTC.
She acknowledged a need to improve downtown parking, making it more available and affordable.
The speaker said the River City Company was formed 27 years ago with a $12 million investment, including $10 million from the Lyndhurst Foundation. The current budget is $3.5 million with 71 percent coming from the group's holdings. She said just two percent comes from the city.
She said the Riverset Apartments was sold by River City last summer in order to have capital to put into new projects.