Bassam Issa says he has an eye for spotting growth, and sees it clearly in Hixson.
Mr. Issa's third development along the Highway 153 corridor - a 12,640-square-foot shopping center called Hixson Retail Crossing - broke ground in June and is set to open Dec. 1. The $3 million project began about a year ago and will bring six businesses to the area.
"This is a great area," said Mr. Issa, who has been developing in Hixson for the past decade. "With the Walmart shopping center, Target and all these fast-food and fine dining restaurants, it's really becoming the new Hamilton Place area in Hixson."
Three businesses have already signed leases, including Aspen Dental Management, a group providing dental and denture services that will occupy the center's largest space of 3,200 square feet. Other businesses coming to the development, located beside Regions Bank and across from Target, include Batteries Plus and Computers Plus.
Mr. Issa chose the site because it's "where everything seems to be," he said.
"All the shopping companies, all the retail shops, are concentrating on this new area, so it was natural for me to think that this is a location to buy and build on," Mr. Issa said.
Though construction for retail developments has been slow since the economy took a nosedive, architect Pat Neuhoff of Neuhoff Taylor Architects said he's beginning to see a turnaround.
Mr. Neuhoff, who is the architect for the Hixson Retail Crossing development, said over the past year retail work has made up a smaller and smaller percentage of his overall workload, but retail development jobs are beginning to pick up.
"It's a very recent phenomenon," he said. "It's not a complete turnaround by any means, but we're beginning to see at some level projects like this beginning to be financed and tenants getting together with developers and moving forward. We didn't see any of that six months ago, and we're beginning to see more of it now."
Clint Wolford, vice president of Wolford Development Inc., which developed the Walmart and Target shopping centers along Highway 153, said the developments sprouting up along the corridor are more a testament to the viability of the area than an economic turning point.
"I think as time goes by and we come out of the recession, and who knows when that's going to be, an area that is going to rebound quickly, from a growth perspective, is that 153 and (Highway) 27 corridor," Mr. Wolford said. "I think that over time, you're going to continue to see 153 grow north ... (It) is the next growth corridor for the city of Chattanooga, in my opinion."