“Close Out Sale,” the large portable sign posted alongside announced.
Smaller signs, inside Save-A-Lot – the grocery store that anchors the commercial property – were even more explicit.
“STORE CLOSING,” one declared. “Everything is on sale, up to 50 percent off. Shelving and all.”
Employees, asked what’s going on, were reassuring. The store is closing so that it can be remodeled, they said they have been told. It will it reopen in a few months, they added.
At Red Bank Town Hall, however, a different story emerged.
A special called planning commission meeting will be held there at 6 p.m. on Wednesday when officials are scheduled to consider a request that the Save-A-Lot and adjoining strip mall be rezoned from C-1 commercial to RT-1 residential.
If approved, the rezoning would clear the way for a potential buyer to demolish the parking lot and the strip of commercial buildings at the rear of the property, and replace them with 38 multi-story townhouses.
Further, the 26,165-square-foot Save-A-Lot building would be converted from a grocery to an office building.
Opponents of the proposal, and the way it has been handled, have been vocal.
“This isn’t a done deal,” Davis Guedron reminded other Red Bank residents on Facebook, “and won’t be done without a lot of our input . . . The mayor and vice mayor walked the neighborhoods behind the proposed development to make sure residents and occupants were aware of the desired zoning change and proposed developments to follow. They were out there to make sure people’s voices were heard who would be most directly impacted.”
Around town, posters have been distributed urging people to get involved.
“Do we need town houses, or (do we need a) Save-A-Lot grocery store and other small retail/restaurant type businesses in Red Bank?” one asked. “Please join us at the next planning commission meeting on Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at Red Bank City Hall.”
The topic has also been vigorously discussed on the Facebook site Red Bank Grapevine.
“Beautify Red Bank,” Leslie Mitts commented. “Don’t turn it into another ugly East Ridge.”
“We can do without the town houses and have Save-A-Lot to help the elderly in this area,” Betty Fogg Smith said indignantly. “They do a lot to help people other than sell groceries. I was told it was shutting down for two weeks for a total renovation!”
It’s no secret that the current owners of the property have been trying unsuccessfully to unload it for several years.
Attracting suitable potential buyers that were welcome in the community, however, has proven difficult.
In 2020, for example, Immunotek Biocenters submitted a proposal to buy and transform the property into a plasma collection center.
Town leaders ultimately rejected that idea, after residents complained that the proposed collection center would prey on poor people and create security and other problems in the area.
The first hint of current efforts to transform the Dayton Boulevard commercial property appeared online on Dec. 6, when LoopNet.com announced that the shopping center – which it said has “20,000+ daily traffic” – was for sale for $3 million.
“The shopping center is ready for the next owner to remodel or redevelop,” according to LoopNet.com, which noted the property has new roofs and trim, and that Save-A-Lot’s exterior was painted in June 2021.
“The shopping center is located in the emerging retail corridor linking Northshore to Hixson, and drawing from the Signal Mountain population,” LoopNet.com declared. “ . . . . The Save-A-Lot space is 26,165 square feet with 14-foot ceilings and two loading docks. Currently occupied by tenant has plans to relocate . . . The strip center has two short-term tenants, 19,200 square feet total space. Gas heat.”