Buyer plans to turn Old Southside YMCA building into mixed-use space

November 6th, 2018by Mike Pare



The old YMCA building on Mitchell Avenue raised in 1929 has 58 dorm rooms, a swimming pool and basketball gymnasium. When it was built, people could get an inexpensive room along with access to the pool and gym. But the building ceased functioning in the mid-1980s and it fell into disrepair.


One of the last major unrestored buildings on Chattanooga's flourishing Southside has found a new owner which plans to give the historic former YMCA building a multimillion-dollar makeover.

"The building is very special. It's very cool," said Roe Elam, development director of buyer Walk to Town Holdings, about the structure that was raised in 1929.

Elam said the Rock Hill, S.C., company plans to turn the four-story, 36,000-square-foot building into mixed-use space.

He said the group is finalizing concepts for the future use of the Spanish Renaissance-style building, which is located at 1517 Mitchell Ave. The building has been empty for many years in the heart of the Southside about a block off East Main Street.

The group paid $2.75 million for the building to seller Jack Kruesi, a Chattanooga businessman who has owned the facility since 1999 and had partially renovated the structure.

Chad Wamack of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp. said Kruesi was looking for an entity to finish off the refurbishing of the building.

Wamack, who'd been working to sell the structure for more than a year and a half, said it attracted a lot of interest because of its history.

"A lot of local boys grew up there and are now men," he said. "They spent so much time there."

Wamack said the site, dubbed by many as "the Industrial Y Building," drew interest not just locally but nationally because of its character and past.

"It was a lightning rod of activity," he said.

Elam said likely several million dollars will be required to put the building back to use. Work is to start next summer and take at least a year, he said.

"It will be a big project for sure," Elam said.

He said the site has about 50 parking spaces, which helps make it attractive in the Southside.

"That's a luxury in that neighborhood," Elam said.

He said the building sits amid a thriving area and vibrant neighborhood.

"It's extremely unique," Elam said, citing its architectural features. "It just needs a little bit of attention to bring it back."

He said there are no plans to seek city incentives to redevelop the property.

Wamack said the structure is "truly a bomb shelter" with concrete floor and walls.

"There's very little wood," he said. "They don't build them like that anymore. There are a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities."

Elam said Walk to Town Holdings is a new venture unrelated to Walk to Campus, which earlier this decade bought several rental properties near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Already, Walk to Town has bought a couple of properties off East Third Street near Erlanger hospital, he said. Elam said the group is in the beginning stages of planning what to do with those properties.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @Mike PareTFP.