published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee puts Lupton City site on block for $10.25 million

A decade after abandoning plans to relocate its corporate campus to Lupton City, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is putting the 216-acre site up for sale.

The riverfront property, listed for sale at $10.25 million, is one of the biggest undeveloped, level sites in the city and could prove attractive for another corporate campus, office park or mixed residential and business development on the Tennessee River.

The property now houses the 9-hole Lupton City golf course along the river, which the golf course leases from BlueCross. It also includes another 54 acres of nearby land along Lupton Drive near the former Lupton City thread mill once owned by Dixie Yarns and later R.L. Stowe Mills Inc.

“It’s a beautiful piece of land with pristine views on the river in the middle of a metropolitan area and you just don’t see that type of development opportunity so close to our downtown — or the downtown of any metropolitan area — and that’s what makes this a very special parcel,” said David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate, which BlueCross hired as the exclusive broker for the site. “This is in the heart of metro Chattanooga and could be used as an office park, for light industry, for residential development or for a mixed use project.”

BlueCross bought the site in December 2001 when the insurer was trying to consolidate its Chattanooga operations, then housed in 10 separate office buildings, into a single corporate campus.

But when BlueCross announced plans to move its headquarters from downtown to the Lupton City site, then Mayor Bob Corker and other downtown enthusiasts urged BlueCross to reconsider staying downtown and worked to clear Cameron Hill for what ultimately became the company’s corporate headquarters complex downtown.

BlueCross, Tennessee’s biggest health insurer, ultimately bought Cameron Hill and built a $299 million headquarters complex atop the downtown site. The insurer moved its Chattanooga staff into the five-building complex, which includes 950,000 square feet, in June 2009.

“I think Cameron Hill has worked out well for us and certainly has achieved the objectives we set out when we began envisioning our new corporate campus,” said Dan Jacobson, vice president of properties and corporate services at BlueCross.

Jacobson said the real estate market has improved since BlueCross decided not to build its campus in Lupton City and now is a good time to try to sell its surplus land.

“In real estate, timing is everything and we feel pretty good about the market right now,” he said. “We’re ready to sell.”

J. Ed. Martson, vice president of communications for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the site should prove attractive for a variety of potential business development ideas.

“Two hundred acres right on the riverfront is a tremendous strategic opportunity for our community and we think this would be a great fit for a back-office operation or other kinds of uses that would produce jobs in our city,” he said. “We stand ready to work with any new owners or developers in marketing the site for the purposes of additional job creation.”

BlueCross bought the land from the Dixie Group, which had owned the site since Chattanooga businessman John T. Lupton acquired 1,000 acres in 1920 to create the mill town of Lupton City for his Dixie Mercerizing Co.

The Dixie company – which changed its name to Dixie Yarns in 1964 and later to simply the Dixie Group — used the mercerizing process, an innovation that made yarn and fabric stronger and easier to dye by altering the chemical structure.

Dixie built both the mill and numerous houses around the mill when Lupton City was outside of Chattanooga’s city limits. The company built a 9-hole golf course, which was originally used by company employees and later became a public course.

Dixie Yarns later sold the Lupton City mill in 1998, to R.L. Stowe Mills, which began producing thread until that plant closed in 2009.

“BlueCross knows the importance of this property and they want to be a good steward of this land and sell it, not only at a good price but in a way that is good for the Chattanooga economy,” DeVaney said. “We would prefer to have an office and light industrial component for this site, along with potential residential development.”

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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