The city’s budget proposal includes the purchase of the vacant Harriet Tubman Development. City leaders want to develop the site to draw in business and jobs. (Photo: Keren Beddoe)
Mayor Andy Berke’s budget includes $3 million for the purchase of the Harriet Tubman Development, and economic leaders hope the land could be a draw for new industry that could revive that area in East Chattanooga.
“Our hope is that if the city is able to move forward and acquire the site, it could aid opportunity for a location of a new business,” Charles Wood, vice president of economic development with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “We’re looking for companies that could locate on that site that would create new jobs and new investment in that area.”
Berke’s proposal includes allocating $3 million for the project in 2014’s budget, and leaders have discussed $1 million for the acquisition, Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for the mayor, said via email.
City leaders plan to send a letter of intent to purchase to the Chattanooga Housing Authority and wait for leaders of that organization to give input, Stone said.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development would have to approve the sale, and if the city’s offer is accepted, then city leaders would work with the county, chamber officials and members of the surrounding neighborhood to prepare the site for investment, Stone said.
The property up for discussion is 35 acres, and although there has been talk of piecing more parcels together to make a bigger site, Stone said that isn’t currently in the plan.
Although some people have wondered if that area needs to continue to be used for housing, others said what that area needs is jobs.
Teal Thibaud with Glass House Collective, an organization aiming to revive Glass Street—which is near the Harriet Tubman complex—said that leaders have heard from neighbors that they want work.
“It’s better to bring jobs, especially since the city is launching an affordable housing pilot program, which would have the goal of transforming vacant and unproductive lots into locations for affordable residencies, which will be very helpful to the East Chattanooga area,” she said via email.
The land is well-positioned to be attractive to businesses, especially ones that may need to ship items, because it’s located near two train lines, leaders said.
“The proximity to railroads, as well as to the river, could both be important factors for businesses when choosing a site,” Stone said.
When Berke presented his budget proposal, he said that he has been talking about bringing jobs to the area since he started his campaign for mayor. This project is an example of how he will follow through on that goal, he said.
“The Chamber of Commerce is excited about having another large site for our economic recruitment initiatives,” he said when presenting his budget, according to Stone. “But all of us here know how the eventual use of that site will also aid East Chattanooga in its turnaround.”
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