Chattanooga landmark Lamar’s could be renovated and restored

A developer plans to renovate and restore the long-standing site of the Lamar restaurant and hotel, which nearly burned down in a fire earlier this year on ML King Boulevard.

“It’s a more vibrant and interesting streetscape along this corridor,” Landon Kennedy, architect for Pfeffer Torode Architecture, said of the ML King neighborhood. “It’s definitely trending that way.”

An application to rezone the properties at 1018 and 1020 EML King will be presented to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on Monday. The panel will also hear a related request to rezone land behind the existing building on East 10th Street for parking.

Kennedy said in a phone interview that getting rezoned is the first step to restoring and renovating the hotel and restaurant.

“We’ll have to do a lot of work to get it where it needs to be,” he said.

Kennedy said it was too early to tell how many rooms the hotel could hold. Also, it is unclear whether the hotel would be a boutique accommodation or associated with a national brand, he said.

The Lamar Restaurant and Hotel, which was built in 1970 but closed in 2017, remained owned by the Lamar Partridge family. The two-story structure was damaged in March when a fire broke out in the vacant building.

Although no firefighters were injured battling the blaze, the windows were torn down and initially the city feared that one of the walls could be compromised even as the fire continued to smolder.

According to the city at the time, the structural damage prompted authorities to initially condemn the building and issue an emergency demolition order on the property.

But engineers and contractors hired by Lamar’s owners met with city engineers and convinced inspectors to put demolition plans on hold to allow the building to be repaired and windows closed to ensure the structure is safe and up to code. municipal building, news show archives.

The business was one of several hotels along ML King, formerly known as Ninth Street or the “Big 9”. The corridor served as the epicenter of the black community and a mecca for live music and entertainment along with shops, restaurants and hotels.

Kennedy said he was an agent for an unnamed developer who works with the owner. Partridge, a Chattanooga businessman who previously served as president of River City Co. and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, could not be reached for comment.

Kennedy said there needs to be more studies into the condition of what’s on the property. The architect said there is a desire to keep a restaurant, but the site will likely be more of a hotel with a restaurant component.

The Regional Planning Agency recommended that the planning commission approve both rezoning applications. RPA staff said the site is part of the MLK plan which recommends multi-unit residential land use in the area.

“One of the goals of the MLK plan is to create a lively and dynamic atmosphere that relies on the entire downtown population, employees, tourists and students in addition to residents to support businesses in day and evening,” the staff said.

East ML King is experiencing some revival with new businesses and accommodations opening.

Recently, Slim & Husky’s pizzeria opened in a new three storey retail and office complex at ML King and Mabel Street. The structure was raised by a Chattanooga development group including Tiffanie Robinson, Travis Lytle and Robert Parks.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

Christy J. Olson