A boxy former movie theater and parking garage in the riverfront district of Chattanooga, Tennessee might easily have become the home of several generic national chain restaurants.
But, the River City Company, a private nonprofit economic development group, decided to take a chance in repurposing the building.
Now called “The Block,” the 23,000-square-foot building is far from a characterless cube—it’s a world-class climbing gym with an expansive exterior climbing wall that doubles as public art.
While attractive historic buildings are frequent candidates for adaptive reuse, even garden-variety commercial structures are now a popular way to conserve resources and revitalize neighborhoods.
The Block is one of the largest adaptive reuse projects in Chattanooga’s history, turning the old Bijou theater into a vibrant urban centerpiece. Including Rock/Creek Outfitters; High Point Climbing and Fitness, a state-of-the-art 28,000 square foot climbing and bouldering gym with a 11,000 square foot dual art piece and climbing wall on the Broad Street facade of the building; and Chattz Coffee, a local artisan coffee roaster and wine bar. High Point also expanded in 2014 to include Kid Zone, a climbing and bouldering area geared towards kids but fun for all ages.
Chattanooga “has undergone a decades-long renaissance that has transformed a riverfront district into an entertainment showplace,” explains commercial real estate practitioner Dan Wagner.