This article was originally published on timesfreepress.com.
The owners of the 112-acre vacant Alstom site on Chattanooga’s riverfront have hired a nationally known master planner to craft a vision for the tract’s future.
“It’s going to be something special,” said Jimmy White, a principal in West End Property LLC, about the 10-year plan to be developed by the firm Dover, Kohl & Partners LLC of Miami.
White said the firm is expected to look at turning the former longtime manufacturing parcel into a mixed-use site including industrial, office, housing, retail and recreation.
“It will be a live, work, play experience,” he said about the parcel that’s located between Riverfront Parkway and the Tennessee River near downtown.
White and Hiren Desai, both Chattanooga businessmen, bought the factory property from GE Power for $30 million this summer. They’re planning what they termed the city’s biggest waterfront revitalization project since Ross’s Landing was remade a decade ago.
White said his company has already negotiated or is talking with four or five groups about leases on the site. He declined to identify the businesses, but said they involve “a lot of jobs.”
* 1888: James Casey and M.M. Hedges bought property from creditors of a defunct iron company and formed the Casey-Hedges Co. Its business was making small boilers.
* 1889: Patrick Walsh and Michael Weidner set up the Walsh-Weidner Co. to produce pressure vessels, tanks, fire tube and water tube boilers.
* 1928: The two companies consolidated as the Hedges, Walsh, Weidner Co. Later, Combustion Engineering purchased the new organization.
* 1956: Combustion’s Chattanooga facilities occupied about 100 acres and more than 1.5 million square feet of floor space.
* 1989: Combustion is swallowed by Asea Brown Boveri.
* 2000: Alstom buys ABB’s boiler and fossil fuel business.
* 2007: Alstom announces plans for new $300 million Chattanooga plant.
* 2015: GE Power buys Alstom Power.
* 2016: GE unveils plans to shut Chattanooga Alstom facilities.
* 2018: Local group West End Property LLC buys 112-acre site; hires Miami-based master planner.
“It’s new blood” to the city, White said about the entities.
Dover, Kohl & Partners is familiar with Chattanooga, having worked about two decades ago on the city’s then emerging Southside part of downtown, especially Rustville, Fort Negley and Jefferson Heights.
Meredith Bergstrom, the firm’s project director and a revitalization specialist, called the new effort “historic” for the city.
“What happens on this site will affect the future of the city in many ways,” she said.
Bergstrom said the firm, which has crafted blueprints for areas in Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala., and Miami, said it’s drawn to Chattanooga’s “beauty and innovative thinking.”
“Our work has always been about creating and nurturing places where people want to be, and so we’re determined to devise a plan worthy of the site’s great potential,” she said.
White said he sees the firm’s new initiative as a continuation of its earlier Southside work, pushing down Main Street into the heart of the Alstom property.
“They’ve got relationships with anchor tenants,” he added.
Jill Allen of Urban Story Ventures, which manages and markets the real estate holdings of White and his business partners, said the firm will conduct a planning meeting in Chattanooga later this month involving the city and other area stakeholders.
That group will discuss such issues as infrastructure, economic development, housing and others, she said, noting the size of the parcel is similar to some city’s downtowns or refurbished neighborhoods in major metros in America.
Early next year, a more public planning session will be held, White said, adding the process should take into the second quarter of 2019.
“We need to bring the river more to the city,” he said. “I’d like to see more of that.”
White said there’s room for the new development next to Chattanooga’s ongoing waterfront efforts downtown and the move to repurposed the 140-acre foundry site just south of Alstom.
“Development is already touching our site,” he said. “I feel a sense of urgency to get that done.”
Because of the Alstom property’s rich history — more than 6,000 people were employed there at one time making equipment for the fossil fuel and nuclear power industry — there’s an obligation to the city, White said.
Manufacturing on the site goes back more than 100 years. For decades, it held Combustion Engineering’s operations.
GE Power obtained the Alstom facilities a few years ago when it bought France-based Alstom’s power operations. GE Power later shut down the Chattanooga facilities and cut more than 200 jobs.
Dover, Kohl’s team will include Hall Planning and Engineering and VHB, both multimodal transportation planners and engineers; Partners for Economic Solutions, an urban economics consulting firm; and Horsley Witten Group, a green infrastructure and sustainable engineering studio, officials said.
Urban Story Ventures is one of Chattanooga’s largest property holders. The company’s portfolio includes downtown and midtown sites including Aerisyn, the Dome Building, the Edney Innovation Center, the James Building, King Street Station and Midtown Office Park.