published Friday, July 2nd, 2010

City swaps land for possible library


by Cliff Hightower

A property swap between the city of Chattanooga and a local company could create the future location of a library branch and museum for Brainerd.

The city traded a piece of property at the corner of Chestnut and Eighth streets for a property at 911 Eastgate Loop Road. The Chestnut Street property is the former Fowler building and the Eastgate property, owned by Luken Holdings, formerly housed the U.S. Postal Service remote encoding center.

"There was no downside to (the swap)," said Councilwoman Carol Berz, who represents the Brainerd area.

Both buildings are unoccupied, officials said.

The City Council approved the transaction Tuesday night, signaling a step toward a future library branch, city officials said. Several community members have envisioned a plan that would place a future library and museum next to the Brainerd Mission Cemetery.

Russ Elliot, leasing and sales representative for Luken Holdings, said the U.S. Postal Service building had been empty for a year. He said the Fowler building is being leased, and plans call for it to become a parking garage for a future hotel.

He said the company decided on the land swap because it was the "right thing to do" to ensure the library branch and museum were put in place.

"We'd like to see that happen," he said.

BY THE NUMBERS

* $2,190,000: Appraised value of Eastgate mall property

* $2,006,000: Appraised value of Chestnut Street property

* 32,000: Square footage of Eastgate mall property

Source: Chattanooga

Danny Thorton, the city's manager of real property, said the city and Luken Holdings has been working on the deal for three to four months. The Eastgate property actually appraised for more than the Chestnut Street property, he said.

He said the current library branch, being housed in a leased property, has drawbacks.

"Our current library was not in a visible location," he said. "This is a good thing for Eastgate."

Dr. Berz said the city still is brainstorming ideas on a new library branch. She said the building on Eastgate Loop Road will probably not be tore down. It is 32,000 square feet and can be used, she said.

"I think its bones are so good, it will be retrofitted," she said.

Follow Cliff Hightower on Twitter at twitter.com/ cliffhightower.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Tivoli Center sold

Article: Failed 'land swap' proposal leads to state interest

Article: Selling downtown space

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