Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 8, 2022

Public-private pact to transform U.S. Pipe site

The U.S. Pipe and Wheland Foundry sites have sat idle since the early 2000s. - Images provided

A public-private partnership will transform the long-neglected U.S. Pipe and Wheland Foundry sites into a live-work-play district Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly say will generate more than $40 million for schools.

The long-planned revitalization of the 100-acre blighted site is expected to generate more than $1 billion in private investment.

A $79.5 million multiuse stadium will anchor the initial $350 million phase, which will include multifamily residential buildings, class-A office space and public recreation areas.

The city and county will each contribute $1.5 million to the construction of the stadium, which totals about 4% of the cost.

Coppinger and Kelly say the surrounding new development will generate more than $90 million in new tax revenue for the city and county.

By comparison, a similar project in Fort Wayne, Indiana, reached $1 billion in new development in 13 years. And a recent project in Columbia, South Carolina, similar in size to the Chattanooga site notched $650 million in six years and is expected to exceed $1.2 billion at full build out.

The remainder of the funding for the stadium – 96% – will come from the project itself, including tax payments from private property owners and developers and via payments the new stadium generates.

The Chattanooga Lookouts owners will pay $1 million in rent per year – more than any other team in Minor League Baseball and nearly three times the rent the Tennessee Titans pay at Nissan Stadium. In addition to rent, the Lookouts will pay for all operations and regular maintenance for 30 years.

The Lookouts will lease the stadium from the Chattanooga Sports Authority, a new entity the city and county formed that will own the property.

Property owners are donating the land on which the stadium will be built, which is valued at $10 million. The property owners previously donated land for the Tennessee Riverwalk.

The Lookouts will use the stadium 20% of each year. The rest of the time, it will be a community asset available for residents to use for local events.

The method of financing revitalization projects using the revenue the project itself generates is known as tax increment financing and is common throughout the country as a mechanism for tackling blighted industrial zones the market has been unable to redevelop alone.

The U.S. Pipe and Wheland factories were shuttered in the early 2000s and have rusted away as much of the rest of Chattanooga saw redevelopment and renewal.

The current plan has been in the works since 2015, when a proposal to catalyze development with a stadium paid for using tax increment financing began to take shape.

Master developer Jim Irwin of New City Properties will oversee the project. Irwin’s firm specializes in brownfield redevelopment and preservation of structures with historic character, such as the towering roof of the U.S. Pipe facility, which is expected to form part of the future stadium.

Irwin’s past projects include Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, the Fourth Ward near Atlanta’s BeltLine and the Neuhoff site in Nashville, among others.

According to Hamilton County Board of Education member Karitsa Mosley Jones, Hamilton County Schools will continue to receive 100% of the tax payments it is owed – projected at more than $40 million in new money – throughout the course of the project and beyond.

Sources: Chattanooga and Hamilton County mayors’ offices