published Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Cherry Street project to help fuel central city growth in Chattanooga

Attorneys Gerald Webb II, left, and Bill Speek take a look inside the building that formerly was the location of businesses such as mini-golf and the Home Plate restaurant at Seventh and Cherry streets. The site is being remodeled for new law offices for the firm of Speek, Webb, Turner and Newkirk.
Attorneys Gerald Webb II, left, and Bill Speek take a look inside the building that formerly was the location of businesses such as mini-golf and the Home Plate restaurant at Seventh and Cherry streets. The site is being remodeled for new law offices for the firm of Speek, Webb, Turner and Newkirk.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    The building that formerly was the location of businesses such as mini-golf and the Home Plate restaurant at Seventh and Cherry streets is being remodeled for new law offices that will include attorney's Gerald Webb II, left, and Bill Speek, right. Matt McGauley, center, came to the site Monday with architectural plans on an electronic pad.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

An expanding Chattanooga law firm is betting on the city's central business district as it readies to shift into new space in a 1930s era building.

While Chattanooga's riverfront and Southside have blossomed over past decade or so, development in the city's core has lagged. But the firm, Speek Webb Turner & Newkirk PLLC, plans to shift into the renovated 6,000-square-foot structure at Cherry and Seventh streets around the first of the year.

"This is one part of the city where we'd like to see more and more focus on," said attorney Bill Speek as he laid out his vision for the new law offices.

The firm currently leases an office about a block south on Cherry, though it has added a new partner, plans to more than double the number of lawyers to nine and it needs the added room, said another partner, Gerald Webb II.

He cited the new office's closeness to the Hamilton County Courthouse as well as the Courts Building, which sits on the same block.

"We're a one-stop shop," Webb said about the firm that handles both criminal and civil cases.

Matt McGauley, whose company owns the building that formerly housed Scenic City Mini-Golf and a number of eateries before that venture, put the revamping of the street-level structure at "north of $500,000." A basement, which had served as a kitchen, can be used for document storage.

The inside of the gutted building holds maple wood floors, brick walls and some textured ceiling tiles. The site will feature a large conference room "to show off," McGauley said.

"We take great pride at Fidelity Trust Co. in re-imaging our community's built environment and putting vacant buildings back into productive use with a new purpose," he said.

The central business district has been slower than other parts of downtown to share in its renaissance. While the city's core has seen some key projects come about, such as a new EPB Building and an upgraded Sheraton Read House, others have stalled. A high-profile parcel on the 700 block of Market Street remains undeveloped, and the old Chattanooga Bank Building hasn't found a new use.

McGauley said he's had the concept of using the Cherry Street building as law offices since 2006, and now it's finally happening. He said they've had the address to the building changed from one on Sixth Street to 631 Cherry St. to showcase the site.

"Everyone knows Cherry Street," Webb said. "It has a long history."

Also along Cherry Street, the Hutton Co. has rapidly grown its development and construction businesses, the Chattanooga Billard Club has expanded its operations and a diner has reopened in the former site of the original Krystal restaurant.

Speek said the new office is more public for the firm, offering it better visibility from the street and room to expand further.

"The proximity makes it ideal for lawyers," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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