|By Mike Pare, Chattanooga Times Free
Press, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jul. 19, 2009--A Crowne Plaza hotel is planned for downtown as developers refurbish the historic Chattanooga Bank & Trust Building in a $24 million project.
The 11-story landmark at Broad and Eighth streets will hold 142 hotel rooms along with a dozen condominiums, according to CLP Development of Atlanta.
"We're so excited we can't see straight," said Carla Dodson, a principal in the firm.
The building, constructed in the mid-1920s, will be kept as original as possible, Ms. Dodson said.
"We're keeping all the old floors and ceilings," she said.
Current tenants of the building received a letter last week giving them a month to vacate.
Chattanooga attorney Robert Brown, who has owned the building since 1989, said the new owners will determine if any tenants stay, but he expects that longtime retailer Rone Regency Jewelers will be considered.
Renovating the building will bring new life to the structure and help change the central business district, he said.
"It will be a distinct improvement and add a number of new jobs in an area of Chattanooga that needs them," said Mr. Brown.
Sue Lauffer, senior project consultant for the developers, said the Chattanooga market is a strong one.
"With the growth we're seeing brought in because of Volkswagen and Alstom, it will only continue to grow," she said.
Plans are to revamp the Chattanooga Bank building to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum standards, Ms. Dodson said. Such standards are designed to make buildings more energy efficient, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve indoor environmental quality.
If the building is LEED-certified Platinum, it would become only the second such hotel in the country, Ms. Dodson said.
The project is being designed by the Chattanooga architectural firm Hefferlin & Kronenberg.
Ms. Lauffer said retail shops and a restaurant will go on the building's first floor with the main lobby on the second level. The building originally had a vaulted ceiling on the first floor, she said.
"We're restoring everything possible to its original beauty," Ms. Lauffer said.
Floors three to eight will hold hotel rooms, she said, while floors nine and 10 will have 10 condos and the top floor will have two penthouses, Ms. Lauffer said. The condos haven't been priced yet, she said.
Parking will be 100 percent valet, Ms. Lauffer said.
Kim White, chief executive of the downtown redevelopment group RiverCity Co., said the hotel and condo project will be "a good shot in the arm" for the central business district.
"It will help get the momentum going," she said.
Mr. Brown, who has lived in the building for seven years, said he will continue to do so after the renovations are completed, slated for June 2010.
The building originally held Chattanooga Bank, which did not survive long, he said, then was home to many doctor and dentist offices. The Tennessee Valley Authority was the prime tenant for many years until its new complex was constructed, he said.
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