The Planning Commission on Monday afternoon went along with a request for special zoning for a development on 81 acres at the Alstom property that City Councilman Darrin Ledford called "a game changer for the city of Chattanooga."
Victor Dover, who helped plan the rejuvenation of the Southside 22 years ago, said all the aspects of the project called "The Bend" would not fit into traditional zoning or even the fairly new Form Based Code. He said the development led by Jimmy White was seeking an entirely new category of Form Based Code to allow the ambitious plans to be carried out.
The planning staff had recommended a 30-day deferral, saying there were concerns about the height of some of the buildings as well as noise from an entertainment section. It was pointed out that previous plans have called for the height of buildings to be stepped down closer to the river to preserve scenic views.
The Bend has several buildings 8-12 stories and an "Iconic, landmark" building that would be up to 20 stories tall along the Tennessee River opposite Moccasin Bend. Mr. Dover said it likely would be a corporate headquarters.
Mr. Dover said The Bend would include a web of new streets, including one called Canal Street that would have a water feature. There would also be public parks and 1,500 trees interspersed throughout the development.
Some of the streets would lead past brownstones and others the tall buildings.
Two hotels would be situated on the riverbank between the Riverwalk and the river.
Mr. Dover, who is from Coral Gables, Fla., said when the White group took over the property it had three workers on site. He said some of the former industrial buildings have been put to use and now there are 330 workers.
Mr. White, co-owner of Urban Story Ventures, said, “We appreciate the Regional Planning Commission’s support of our vision to transform the riverfront into a culturally and economically diverse development. We are now one step closer to turning an expansive, forgotten space into a thriving community that will attract visitors and residents for years to come.”
He said the redevelopment of the property is projected to add $2 billion to $3 billion in investments, over 5,000 jobs and more than $11 million in annual tax revenue to the city and county. Commercial, residential, office, civic, entertainment and event space will be constructed over the next decade with the first phase beginning as early as 2020.
“This riverfront property has more untapped potential than any future development in the region and perhaps the entire country,” said Hiren Desai, co-owner of Urban Story Ventures. “We have only just begun to unveil the positive impact this development will have on Chattanooga as it becomes its own community and a major destination for visitors to our city.”
The first phase of the development includes an estimated 50,000 square feet of new office space, a 10,000 square-foot food hall and entertainment venue, and a canal that brings the Tennessee River inland.
Additionally, Urban Story Ventures has started pre-leasing space for a planned office building on West Main Street. Micronics Engineered Filtration Group, a New Hampshire-based filter press designer and manufacturer, and Team Title Services, a company that simplifies the process of buying and selling real estate, are the first companies to locate to the property, bringing approximately 220 jobs.
Councilman Ledford called it "the most amazing, far-reaching project that I've ever seen in this city. It's so bold and so amazing that it will put us light years ahead of other cities. It may set standards and be a model for other cities."
Barry Payne, commission member, said concerning talk that some aspects of the project would set a precedent that "Holy cow, I hope so. It's fantastic."
The zoning case next goes to the City Council.