Chattanooga provides details on hotel conversion

Airport Inn could be renovated into supportive housing for homeless, neighboring residents concerned

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly shared more details Wednesday night about the city’s purchase of the run-down Airport Inn.

It’s set to be converted into permanent supportive housing apartments for some in the city’s homeless community, but neighboring residents are incredibly concerned.

Mayor Tim Kelly had previously called the Inn “a hotbed” of drugs and crime.

He says its transition to supportive housing would both reduce local crime while providing a haven for some of the city’s homeless.

To move in, tenants must be pre-screened for eligibility and will be unable to do so if they’re on the sexual offender registry or have a serious violent felony conviction.

“While we are building a shelter elsewhere, we are doing that … the community certainly needs one, that’s not what this is,” Kelly said. “That is not what this building will be.”

“This model specifically of buying a motel and converting it into permanent supportive housing has been done for decades successfully all around the country,” said Tod Lipka, President of Step Up.

But many in the neighboring community do not share the mayor’s optimism.

City Councilwoman Carol Berz says she’s received death threats from unknown locals over the development.

Numerous parents from nearby Silverdale Baptist Academy expressed grave concern that the new apartments will attract those whose interests lie in harming their children.

“There’s back and forth about ‘is this a mental health facility or is it not?'” one resident said while addressing Lipka. “I’ve got one comment that says it’s not a mental health facility. Sir, on the first part of your slide, you say you’re a mental health provider.”

One woman addressed city officials and others involved with the project saying they were “getting crafty with words” before adding, “this is a place for homeless people.”

Chattanooga’s Director of Special Projects Ellis Smith then took the microphone away, responding, “No ma’am, they’re housed. Do you have another question?”

“We could’ve avoided this entire meeting had there been more conversations up front,” another resident said. “So on November 11, are you voting for this with or without hearing the concerns or addressing them? Yes or no?”

According to the project’s tentative timeline, the Chattanooga City Council could begin voting on the matter as soon as early November.

A certificate of occupancy could be granted for the facility as early as the second quarter of next year.

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