The former Bijou Theater location has nearly been transformed into The Block.
A new Rock/Creek boutique opened there recently, the climbing and fitness facility will start accepting visitors next month, and officials are working to finalize details of a deal for Chattz Coffee to locate in the new development.
City officials have painted a picture of the development as a downtown anchor that will draw tourists and residents.
The facility will create jobs, increase downtown traffic flow and boost tax revenue; and it's a new highlight to help Chattanooga stand out, officials said.
"We are world-renowned from the standpoint of [recreational] opportunities here," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who toured the facility last week. "We launched the outdoor initiative about a decade ago, and I still think it's one of the things that make the city so attractive."
General manager Jim Sapere said that until people visit the store they might have trouble understanding why the company would add a store on Broad Street when there is already one on the North Shore. But the stores have different products and different brands, he said.
Spokesman for the store Mark McKnight said the Broad Street location is more of a boutique, and the downtown and the North Shore stores aren't competitors.
Rock/Creek's investment is about $500,000, and the gym is about $6.5 million, McKnight said.
General manager of the gym John Wiygul said that renovations are about 90 percent complete. Crews have a couple more weeks of work left on the inside climbing walls. The facility, called High Point, will open sometime in November, and leaders will likely have a grand opening in January, he said.
There will also be climbing walls on the outside of the facility, which will offer several different types of climbing—such as lead climbing, top roping and speed climbing. There will be something for a range of skill levels, officials said.
—60: Number of jobs created from Rock/Creek and High Point
—200-300: Construction jobs from the project
—250,000: Estimated number of people who will visit the Rock/Creek location at The Block
—70-100: Number of daily passes leaders of the gym aim to sell in the first couple of years
—400-500: Estimated membership for the first couple of years
Source: River City Company
There will be 28,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor climbing surface, he said.
There will be a multipurpose room available for yoga classes, birthday parties and corporate events. There will also be a weight room and aerobics room that make up a combined total of 3,200 square feet.
The new facility will also have a rapelling ledge and rescue training area. Wiygul said local rescue leaders have already called to discuss the possibility of using the facility for training.
"This area can be used to train rescue personnel to rescue in situations like out of a cave, confined space, manhole—a number of unique scenarios," he said. "We will also have a climbing school run by two professional climbers that moved here from California."
Locker rooms and showers will be available.
Visitors can get either a day pass for $15 or purchase monthly memberships for $60. Students and children will get discounted prices, Wiygul said.
The facility will lend itself to hosting climbing competitions, and downtown visitors will be able to watch from the street or a nearby restaurant, officials said.
Wiygul said the climbing facility will help expose area residents and visitors to rock climbing, which not everyone understands because it's often done on the side of a mountain.
It will complement other downtown attractions, too, he said.
And Amy Donahue, communications specialist with River City Company, which is the project's developer, said the facility will provide an economic boost to the area.
"High Point has already been contacted about hosting climbing events/competitions at their location, along with natural related events like the RiverRocks Festival," she said via email. "The potential for tax revenues, both tourism and sales tax, are great for this location. Also, there is a secondary effect for the businesses (restaurants, attractions and retail) around The Block, which can be calculated down the road."
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