Mayor Tim Kelly, City Council, address Airport Inn renovation plan

Remodeled inn would create more than 70 new permanent housing units for homeless residents

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) — As Chattanooga’s homelessness rates continue to increase, the city is taking its next step to house those in need.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly asked the council Tuesday afternoon to support the revitalization of the, quote, “dilapidated” Airport Inn Motel off Lee Highway.

This will all be done in an effort to turn a problematic facility into new homes for those who truly need one.

One year ago, the Chattanooga City Council unanimously approved the purchase of the run-down motel, which Kelly called “a hotbed” of drugs and crime.

Now, despite concerns and criticism from some residents, the mayor is asking for support for the city’s homeless neighbors and what could become, for some, their new home.

“In Chattanooga, the number of beds available for temporary shelter has actually decreased over the last several years and our infrastructure to deal with mental health and addiction issues also, sadly, has not been able to keep pace,” Kelly said.

The project would see a rezoning and overhaul of the entire motel, while new tenants would be moved in with a referral system from local nonprofits.

The mayor believes it’s a win-win for both homeless residents and those tired of nearby criminal activity.

“There’s one less dilapidated fleabag motel attracting [crime] and blight,” Kelly said. “I know there are motels in the neighborhood there that are causing Silverdale problems but this is not that. This is quite literally the opposite of that.”

Both the mayor and District 5 Councilman Isiah Hester talked Scripture and teachings to all in attendance about aiding those in need.

Hester says supporting this development provides Chattanoogans the opportunity to be Good Samaritans.

“We’re trying to successfully re-enter folks into society,” Hester said. “That’s all we’re trying to do … so they can be made whole. We can be like the Words of Christ — greater work we should do than He.”

Mayor Kelly says that just from the city purchasing the motel, 911 calls in the area have reduced by 47%.

He says this project is “essential” to creating even more future housing units for those just looking for stability and some hope.

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