published Friday, December 6th, 2013

Developer offers $100 million 'villagelike' plan for Hixson site

  • photo
    Hixson resident Carol Million, seated center, voices her concerns about the 100-foot buffer zone that will connect the planned Hillock Farm development to subdivisions to the east Thursday night during a community meeting at the Hixson United Methodist Church. Marketing retail specialist Rick Hill, standing right, listens to her point. Bob Yager, seated left, looks at the area in question during the presentation.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

Designers of a proposed $100 million apartment and commercial project in Hixson offered what they call a villagelike development to area residents Thursday, but some still worried about its impact on neighborhoods and traffic.

"What kind of assurances will neighbors have?" asked Carol Million, who lives behind the proposed Hillocks Farm project, which would be one of Chattanooga's largest-ever mixed-use developments if it receives city approval.

The developer and landowner told about 60 people at a community meeting that the new plan is better than an earlier proposal known as Chattanooga Village that was turned aside early this year by the City Council.

"We've gotten a lot of feedback," said developer Duane Horton. "It made it a better plan."

Jack Lonas, who owns the 190-acre wooded tract off Highway 153 near Boy Scout Road, said the new offering fits the topography of the site.

"It will be good for the community," he said.

Hillocks Farm would hold 280 apartments, which would go up first. Project officials said plans call for a clubhouse, restaurant and chapel, along with 500,000 square feet of retail space and 250,000 square feet of corporate offices.

All of the three zones of development would be connected by trails. A 100-foot wooded buffer, up from 50 feet, would separate buildings from existing neighborhoods, project designers said.

The hilltop at the site, a contentious point in other plans, wouldn't be touched, they said.

A pair of entrances would be built from Highway 153 -- one of which will have a traffic light. But there would be no entrance or exit on Boy Scout Road, according to officials.

Rick Hill, who talked about the retail portion of the project, said it will have "a gardenlike environment" with barnlike structures.

"I see outdoor cafes. I don't see aluminum storefronts like a Kmart shopping center," he said. "It must be a pedestrian-friendly village."

Hill said he also doesn't foresee big-box stores such as a 150,000-square-foot Walmart. He does see several stores of 25,000 to 35,000 square feet, along with specialty shops.

"We're not trying to compete with strip centers," he said.

Roland Aberg of the design firm Hart Howerton said the site will have tight stormwater standards to control runoff through retention ponds and other methods.

"It won't increase the runoff, or the rate of runoff," he said.

He estimated the project, following a series of meetings with a committee of residents over the past several months, will likely have more than 50 conditions for developers to meet to allay residents' concerns.

Hill said the new plan has added green space and water features and replaces squares with gardens.

The earlier plan was more urban, like a "lifestyle center" with a Main Street, he said.

"It could be anyplace," Hill said, noting the new proposal respects the site's history as a farm.

Marv Martin, who lives in the area, said he likes the new plan.

"Absolutely," he said. "It just needed to be vetted."

Martin said he favors the possibility of connecting the trails in Hillocks Farm with other greenways and potentially with a creek near the site.

But, not everyone was convinced.

Bob Bishop, who also lives near the site, said it's just too close to nearby homes.

"I don't think it's a good idea," he said.

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission and City Council must endorse the plan before work can start. No timetable was given for those steps Thursday.

Since the project was turned back earlier, City Council Vice Chairman Chip Henderson and Councilmen Ken Smith and Jerry Mitchell have taken part in meetings with a nine-member community panel and Horton to address community concerns.

Horton originally proposed an apartment and commercial project for the site in 2011.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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