published Friday, March 29th, 2013

New North Shore Publix in Chattanooga to be built with concrete blocks, not just bricks

  • photo
    A North Shore resident addresses the planning commission on a proposed Publix grocery store in his neighborhood.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
    enlarge photo

A North Shore Publix that planners thought would be a four-sided brick building will actually be built with painted concrete blocks on two sides.

"I'm surprised, I think all of us were surprised," said Rice Williams, a member of the North Shore Design Review Committee.

The proposed Publix has been part of a heated debate over the district's stringent building rules, after developers proposed an essentially suburban design for a part of the city known for its urban charm.

Original plans provided to the committee didn't visibly differentiate between the brick and concrete walls, except in a small note that wasn't seen by the public in previous presentations -- or, apparently, by the North Shore Design Review Committee, which unwittingly approved the concrete block walls.

"I thought it was a four-sided brick building," said committee member Brooke Bradley King.

But it won't be. In fact, the grocery store's south concrete wall will be partially visible to traffic on North Market street, though the concrete wall on the east will be well-hidden, plans show.

Though developers pointed to the original plans as proof that they never concealed the existence of the concrete masonry units, or CMUs, neighbors weren't happy at what they considered a disappointing revelation.

"This project was presented at one point in time as an all-brick structure," said resident Jim Wilson. "We need to do better than this."

Midway through the nearly two-hour meeting, planners considered requiring an all-brick structure as a condition of building in Chattanooga's high-end North Shore district, which is zoned for urban buildings. However, the board backed down after developer Jack Wilcox said he would pull landscaping from the plan if he were required to build with brick, which is much more expensive than concrete block.

"From day one these walls have been CMUs," Wilcox said. "We're already spending close to a million dollars just to satisfy the design criteria."

As a compromise, the board voted 3-1 to require brick columns with integrally colored concrete blocks on the wall that will be partially visible from North Market.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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