Seeking to leverage a surge in air traffic at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, a study suggests new hotels, housing, retail space and offices around Lovell Field in potential multimillion-dollar projects.
City officials are eyeing public-private partnerships to spur the added development in the area while protecting existing neighborhoods.
"This plan is about framing a strategy to harness the energy of what's going on at the airport," said Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency executive director John Bridger, who briefed some city councilmen on the study's initial findings on Tuesday.
The study, which began late last year, shows the area could support two new hotels with a total of 219 rooms by 2030 and four with 616 rooms by 2040. Short-term, a hotel on the Lee Highway corridor near the airport offers the best bet due to the road's high visibility. A second hotel could go on the Lovell Field campus, the study said.
Also, the area could support up to 400,000 square feet of office space by 2030 and 750,000 square feet by 2040, according to the study. New offices should follow a multi-use format, in which the space is combined with residential or retail space, the study says.
Also, the area could hold 344,000 square feet of industrial use by 2030 and 642,000 square feet by 2040. While the area doesn't have big parcels, the focus would be on creating smaller, flexible industrial spaces targeting light assembly, research and development, airport services and technology, and food production. Potentially, the area could support a "food processing" incubator for locally based start-up companies, the study said.
In addition, there's room for up to 308 new housing units in the area by 2030 and 579 by 2040, the study said. It suggested a mix of market rate and workforce housing.
City Councilwoman Carol Berz said efforts are underway to rebrand the area between Enterprise South industrial park and downtown. She said there are a number of developers interested in the area.
City Councilman Russell Gilbert said he likes the proposed plan.
"We're looking at all of Chattanooga and not just downtown," he said.
The plan identifies at least three commercial areas where much of the development could take place.
Lee Highway and Jubilee Drive, which held a Target store many years ago, offers a lot of short-term opportunity, Bridger said. He cited a potential hotel at the location along with up to 50,000 square feet of retail, office or flexible industrial space.
"All these things focused on one location," Bridger said.
Gilbert said the hotel could hold convention space so people wouldn't have to travel downtown.
Berz said that people flying private flights into the Wilson Air facilities nearby could be users at the Jubilee Drive site.
Another potential center for development is Lee Highway and Airport Road, said the study. A third center could be Airport and Shepherd roads, the study showed.
Airport officials said this spring that passenger traffic could set another record in 2019 if the numbers stay high.
Officials have seen five consecutive record years of boardings, with 2018 topping the half-million mark for the first time ever at 504,298 passengers. A strong local economy along with more destinations, such as nonstops to New York City and Philadelphia, are helping to generate traffic, officials said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.
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