Grade work begins on Exit 20 property
by DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Mar 17, 2013 | 2371 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Disturbed landscape is visible south of Exit 20 on the east side of Interstate 75. A 240-acre commercial and retail development is in the early stage of development in the southeast quadrant of Exit 20. The development fronts about one mile of the interstate. Banner photo, DAVID DAVIS
Disturbed landscape is visible south of Exit 20 on the east side of Interstate 75. A 240-acre commercial and retail development is in the early stage of development in the southeast quadrant of Exit 20. The development fronts about one mile of the interstate. Banner photo, DAVID DAVIS
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The inner road surrounding Hamilton Square Mall in Chattanooga encompasses about 80 acres. By comparison, a 240-acre commercial and retail development is in the early stage of development in the southeast quadrant of Exit 20.

Larry Armour is part of the general partnership, Cleveland Exit 20, formed Dec. 15, 2008, to develop the property in the southeast quadrant. He said Friday that nothing would happen until the two bridges across Exit 20 are replaced.

The Exit 20 bridge replacement is scheduled to be let for construction sometime this spring.

Building the two new bridges will take up to two and a half years with construction done in stages. No lane reductions are planned; however, temporary traffic shifts will take place to accommodate construction of the new bridges. Work on the entrance and exit ramps will take place concurrently with the bridge work.

Armour said the unnamed development would be a mix of retail and commercial, but mostly retail.

“We are talking to a lot of people, but until the bridge is built, we’re not generating much interest,” he said. “It’s phenomenaL property. It’s the best piece of property between Chattanooga and Knoxville.”

Disturbed landscape is visible south of Exit 20 on the east side of I-75. Beyond the grade work is the new Local Interstate Connector road built in 2012. The road will eventually connect to a new interchange across APD-40 located about halfway between the interstate and South Lee Highway. The project is scheduled for construction bid late this summer. It will take approximately 2 years to complete.

The new road, Cherokee Gateway South, will provide interstate access to the commercial and retail development and the 343-acre Spring Branch Industrial Park on the east side of Cherokee Gateway South. A second road, Cherokee Gateway North, is a planned link to the northeast quadrant.

Local business and government leaders have long sought access to both quadrants for development.

According to past news stories in 2005, former U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp pushed for rebuilding Exit 20 and marketing it as the gateway to the Cherokee National Forest. He promoted moving the forest service offices from North Ocoee Street to Exit 20 and building a welcome center.

Cabela’s, which bills itself as “the world’s foremost outfitter of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear” was included in those brainstorming discussions.

Three years later in September 2008, former State Sen. Dewayne Bunch, 24th District State Rep. Kevin Brooks, Bradley County Commission Chairman Dr. Michael Plumley, Armour and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland traveled to Nashville to meet with TDOT to discuss gaining access to the southeast quadrant. The trip was born out of an Aug. 28, 2008, Convention Task Force meeting.

At that time, the owners tentatively agreed to set aside some of the property for a hotel and convention center to complement the retail development.

According to past reports, Cameron Fisher formed the task force in 2008, shortly after taking office as chairman of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. He formed the task force as a continuation of talk of a multipurpose arena two years earlier. The thought then was that a minor league hockey team might be the anchor tenant. The now defunct task force was composed of a cross-section of leaders with various skills and expertise from city and county government, real estate, Chamber of Commerce, professional meeting planners, construction and the hospitality industry.

Armour said Friday the development will happen.

But exactly what happens is only speculation.