The downtown Applebee’s closed over the weekend, and that leaves prime downtown real estate open for opportunities.
“It absolutely opens the area up for an influx of new retail and restaurant offerings,” Amy Donahue, marketing and communication manager for downtown economic development nonprofit River City Co., said via email.
Some people in the design and city planning community weren’t pleased with the use of the space where Applebee’s was located.
Donahue said that the building wasn’t a great fit for the urban area.
“The small parking lot on the back and only being one story didn’t maximize the parcel as optimally as it could have been done, which is why the design community wasn’t too keen on the building,” she said.
The Times Free Press reported that management at the downtown location attributed the closure to the competing Applebee’s locations in the area.
USA Today reported last month that Applebee’s has struggled as a brand and was closing restaurants around the country.
Some Chattanooga-area residents said they prefer not to see big chains, such as Applebee’s, downtown.
And Donahue has seen that sentiment play out.
“We’ve seen that local and unique offerings tend to do better in an urban setting,” she said. “That doesn’t mean chain restaurants can’t or won’t work in a downtown environment, but I think consumers have a lot of options.”
She also said that River City leaders hear from business owners and restaurateurs who are interested in the area but want to see more residents downtown before they take the chance to open.
Apartments at 728 Market St. are slated to open 125 units soon. There are 85 units currently leasing—half of which are already occupied—at The Maclellan. If those new projects fill up and an average of 1.5 people live in those units, there will be 315 new downtown residents within three blocks by the end of the year, Donahue said.
River City leaders work to facilitate development and tenants downtown that will be successful.
“As a nonprofit entity, we don’t have the resources to go out, buy and develop every parcel in our downtown, but what we can do is try to act as a matchmaker between available spaces and people interested in doing projects to get the right fit,” she said.
But Donahue said there is a variety of reasons for those closures, some of which are not reflective of whether a business drew in enough patrons.
212 Market closed after decades of success, in part because of family changes.
Former Raw owner Jim Striker said the business’ closure had to do with him going in a different career direction.
Donahue said that World of Beer owners had a dispute with the landlord.
The tearoom, which is farther south on Market Street, lost its lease and had been looking for another owner.
“I think it’s also important to note just how many businesses have made downtown their home for years and are putting out a product consumers seem to enjoy and seek out,” she also said.
Lupi’s Pizza Pies on Broad Street is a good example, she said.
“They’ve been in business a long time and have arguably the same constraints as their block neighbors on Market [Street],” she said. “But they have a high-quality product. Consumers appreciate that.”
Updated @ 9:16 a.m. on 9/13/17 for clarity.