News Column

Choo Choo at heart of new development

August 6, 2014

By Joy Lukachick, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

Aug. 06--As the City Council prepares for its anticipated vote on a new sound ordinance next week, more noise than usual is coming from the area surrounding Track 29.

Construction started Friday on $8 million in renovations and development at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, partly owned by Jon Kinsey, whose son Adam owns Track 29.

Track 29 has been at the heart of the sound ordinance debate, sparked by complaints from Southside residents who say noise from the music venue rattles windows and pictures on their walls.

Part of the plans for the Choo Choo's development involve a new 500-person music venue managed by Track 29 that will cater to smaller crowds and feature a mix of country, Southern rock, indie and bluegrass.

The Comedy Catch, which will move from Brainerd to downtown in time for its 30th anniversary, will be located next door.

The plan is especially expected to pump new life into 14th Street. Terminal BrewHouse sits on the corner of 14th and Market, but the rest of the street is used essentially as an alley, with Dumpsters and trucks flowing to Main Street.

Kinsey predicts the new music venue and The Comedy Catch will attract 200,000 people a year.

Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this plan is what Chattanooga needs to build an after-five nightlife, pulling together existing venues to spark a vibrant entertainment and music district.

"Now is the time and room to bring an after-five [area] in one of the districts. This serves as the gateway or portal to that," Doak said. "You'll see more and more businesses start up as music and entertainment continues to grow in this city."

Part of the new sound ordinance calls for the creation of a specific entertainment area where venues that lie within the defined street limits -- which stretch from Fourth Street through Main Street -- can crank up the music until midnight, with a permit. That would include the Choo Choo and its new businesses.

Also part of Kinsey's plans, the Nashville-based Sam's Sports Grill and the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Blue Fish Oyster Bar will be built inside the hotel's lobby facing Market Street. The plans could include patios that spill into the hotel courtyard, creating an inviting atmosphere for both tourists and locals, he said.

About $1 million will be invested in renovating the hotel rooms in Building One, one of several buildings in the complex.

Hotel renovations are expected to take until spring 2015, but without closing the hotel. The first part of construction will be on the new women's restroom and relocating the front desk to make room for the new restaurants.

"It would be a tremendous add to the area," Southside/Cowart Place Neighborhood Association vice president Jay Martin said of the overall plan. "Not only to the Southside, but to the city. It also adds to the tourist attraction of the Choo Choo itself."


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Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

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