The Hixson area rekindles its growth path this week with the opening of Academy Sports + Outdoors in the newest shopping center off Highway 153.
Developer Greg Blosser said The Fountains of North Chattanooga is one of just a handful of new centers currently going up statewide due to the economy.
"That's a testament to Chattanooga's growth," he said about the development estimated at between $20 million and $25 million when built out.
Katy, Texas-based Academy, which operates 112 stores in 11 states in the Southeast, sells sports apparel, footwear and equipment as well as hunting, fishing and camping goods.
The Hixson store, to open Friday, will employ about 100 people at its 66,000-square-foot unit in the shopping center at Highway 153 and Pine Marr Road, said Elise Hasbrook, the company's senior communications manager.
She said a second Chattanooga store, about 72,000 square feet in size, is slated to open this summer at The Terrace near Hamilton Place mall at the site formerly occupied by Circuit City.
"We evaluate all our markets carefully," said Ms. Hasbrook. "We do a lot of research before we decide on a location. We think residents will respond well."
The company competes against Dick's Sporting Goods, The Sports Authority and Walmart, according to Hoover's.
At the Hixson Academy store last week, employees were undergoing training and merchandise was being stocked.
The rest of the shopping center site has been leveled and is awaiting other retailers. Landscaping is under way and a new traffic light on Highway 153 is going up at the center's entrance.
Mr. Blosser said Academy "gets the ball rolling" for the new shopping center. He declined to name other possible stores, but said he expects to have "a pretty good lineup" by mid-2010.
More construction should start by this fall with openings in the spring 2011, Mr. Blosser said.
His development company also has options on most of an adjacent tract running south to Grubb Road's intersection with Highway 153, Mr. Blosser said.
"We always planned it to be in two phases," he said. The developer estimated the second phase as up to $25 million as well.
He said his Barnesville, Ga., development company noticed the growth north on Highway 153 and assembled the property from numerous owners.
Over the past decade, Chattanooga developer Bucky Wolford built the Walmart-anchored Oak Park Town Center and later Towne Center North with a new Target store. Both shopping centers are on Highway 153 between Hixson Pike and Grubb Road.
Most of the land fronting Highway 153 is designated for some kind of commercial use, according to planners who believe future development could extend north to near the road's intersection with U.S. 27.