Jimmy White, owner of Urban Story Ventures and developer of a major project at the Alstom property, told members of the downtown Rotary Club on Thursday that he believes Chattanooga's brightest days are yet to come as companies shun expensive cities like Nashville or Atlanta.
“A lot of these groups have been circling around Chattanooga, who may be getting priced out of Nashville,” said Mr. White, “This site will be a good alternative. We’re able to capture some of these jobs that might have gone to Nashville or Dallas.”
Mr. White and Urban Story Ventures have made their fortune by revitalizing and repurposing old buildings around the Scenic City. One such example was their work with the James Building. When Mr. White and Urban Story got their hands on the property, it was in a state of borderline-disrepair.
“We renovated the lobby, as it was highly inefficient. It was just not very good,” said the speaker, “We turned an old horse and buggy into a Tesla. So for a building that was to go from 1906 to one of the most efficient buildings in Chattanooga, that was a monumental task.”
The highlight of his presentation was a lengthy section giving a glimpse into the future of the riverfront. The planned renovations and improvements to this section of Chattanooga will not happen upon a whim, Mr. White assured the audience.
“This is 112 acres on the river, and we have spent the better part of a year getting the city and community’s input. What you’ll see today isn’t our vision, but is the community’s vision. It’s still a work in progress.”
Throughout his presentation, Mr. White assured the Rotary Club that every step was carefully being thought out. While the builders did not know exactly what kinds of businesses would go into the new riverfront, he promised every aspect of the project would be planned out in painstaking detail. He did not give a timeline for when these would be completed, however.
“How does this site blend into the existing city of Chattanooga?” asked Mr. White. Because of this, world-class architects are not the only personnel brought into Chattanooga for this. Urban Story’s owner placed special importance on having experienced road-planners in tow, in order to ensure any buildings or projects fit into the city.
When one of the Rotarians asked about parking (or the lack thereof) in the city, and how the new riverfront would address it, Mr. White advised the Rotary Club to think about the development of technology.
“We have to think about not only how we park today, but also how we will park 20 years from now,” said Mr. White, What we plan today may or may not be obsolete in five years with scooters, autonomous vehicles and other advances in technology.”