Hamilton County lawmakers redirect Chattanooga’s River City Co. grant to health clinic, Tivoli Foundation

NASHVILLE — Hamilton County lawmakers are approving Governor Bill Lee’s proposed $725,700 grant to Chattanooga’s River City Co. to secure the use of waterfront parking for a potential development.

Lawmakers have opposed taking the land at Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley and potentially giving it to a developer to build something like condominiums.

“Some delegation members were concerned about taking this property which now allows parking to access the river for some big events like Head of the Hooch and Riverbend and things like that,” said the chair of the finance committee of the Chamber, Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said in an interview. “There were concerns about blocking these kinds of events if they happened.”

Hazlewood, who is chair of the Hamilton County Legislative Delegation, said there were further concerns about how it might be developed and who might ultimately benefit from that development.

“It’s not in the proposed legislative amendment,” Hazlewood said. “That money is being redirected.”

The House and Senate versions of the governor’s more than $350 million amendment to the $52 billion annual state appropriations act find other uses for the money.

Under the House and Senate budget bills, those funds would now be split equally between Clinica Medicos, a nonprofit providing health care to the Hispanic community, and the Tivoli Foundation.

Clinica Medicos provides preventative and other medical care to the needy in Chattanooga. The Tivoli Foundation, which financially helps support the downtown Tivoli Theatre, is supporting a “major renovation” of the historic facility on the National Historic Register, Hazlewood said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said Wednesday after the panel approved the budget that the decision was made by the House and Senate Finance Committees in consultation with the local legislators.

Both Clinica Medicos and the Tivoli had requested state support, Watson said.

“In order to fund these requests, we transferred this money from, I’ll call it the parking request, to these two,” Watson said. “We always kept the money locally. But in fact, we had received a lot of feedback from the community about the loss of this space.”

Among those raising concerns were organizers of the Head of the Hooch, an annual rowing regatta on the Tennessee River, who publicly raised concerns about parking and easy river access for the event, said Watson.

“They said, ‘If we don’t have space there, how are we going to do this? The city’s response to that was, “We have a few years to figure that out.”

“And I don’t think we ever felt comfortable with that,” Watson said. “It could come back next year because I think they’re preparing that plan a little better and helping us understand the impact it will have on some of these events.”

Efforts to reach River City Co. President and CEO Emily Mack on Wednesday afternoon were unsuccessful. Chattanooga city officials did not comment.

Contact Andy Sher at [email protected] or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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