This article was originally published on timesfreepress.com.
“It’s a really cool retrofit. It has really animated this area.” — Chattanooga developer Jimmy White
Two years ago, a dilapidated 108-year-old former cold storage warehouse in downtown Chattanooga’s Southside was an eyesore at best.
Now, after a multimillion-dollar face lift, the building and an adjacent tract are boasting nearly 500 new jobs and an array of tenants offering new life to the site.
The $35 million development, dubbed King Street Station, is 100 percent leased up, said Jimmy White, a partner with Chattanooga hotel developer Hiren Desai.
“It shows the demand in the market,” said White, a partner with Desai in Urban Story Ventures.
After the massive makeover of the building, which included 80 new windows as part of its restoration, WanderLinger Brewing Co. opened on the ground floor about a year ago.
Also, the Moxy Hotel by Desai’s 3H Group, a $19 million, 108-room project at Market and King streets, debuted about the same time on the parcel next door.
“Although the site had been blighted and empty for many years, Jimmy and I saw potential and understood that it would be a key component in the revitalization of the Southside area,” said Desai, chief executive officer of 3H Group. “The King Street Station expansion not only complements our existing entertainment and hospitality offerings but also generates even more tax dollars and jobs for this city.”
Today, the 80,000-square-foot, six-level brick building adjacent to the Moxy is 50 percent occupied as build-out work continues on the structure to ready it for the rest of its tenants, according to White.
A company that the building’s owners declined to immediately identify will occupy the second and third floors. That business will put in 170 jobs with plans to grow its workforce to between 250 and 280 people, White said.
Goodfellas Pizzeria, a New York-style pizza restaurant with several locations throughout the nation, will occupy the ground floor and open next spring with its first unit in Tennessee, White said.
The restaurant’s Wiseguy Lounge, slated to offer a 1920s ambiance with a modern twist, will occupy the 6,000 square-foot basement of the development. The lounge will offer patrons bourbons, craft cocktails and an extensive draft beer list.
White said he likes the Southside location of the restaurant and lounge and its proximity to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The building dates back to 1911 when it was developed by Chattanooga business titan John T. Lupton, best known for growing the Coca-Cola bottling business.
New Media/Gatehouse Live, a Las Vegas-based event production company, has claimed the building’s top floor and will bring over 30 jobs, he said.
MediTract, a division of TractManager Holdings serving a quarter of the nation’s hospitals with contract life-cycle management solutions, already occupies the fourth and fifth floors. It employs more than 120 employees, having moved from another downtown location.
White, who is a partner with Desai in other Chattanooga real estate ventures such as the former Alstom property off Riverfront Parkway, said it took awhile to figure out what they wanted to do on the King Street Station site.
“We were really close to tearing [the existing building] down,” White said. “The numbers were close.”
Then, the Moxy concept came about, and they saw a need for office space on the Southside.
“We’d rather keep it. We’re into restoration,” White said. “It’s a really cool retrofit. It has really animated this area. We’re very pleased with the way it turned out.”
Also, a key to the site is the availability of parking, he said. White said the site holds a couple hundred spaces for parking, which is at a premium on much of the Southside.
“It won’t be a ghost town at night,” he said.
Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.