The biggest apartment project planned for downtown Chattanooga in 30 years hit a potential snag Monday as members of a city panel worried about corrugated metal on the building's exterior.
Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. members and a developer of nearby high-end townhomes expressed concerns the outside of the planned structure at Second and Walnut streets would feature some of the metal.
"I want to make sure it's not hurting the value of the $700,000-, $800,000-, $900,000-per-unit, single-family homes we've got," said panel member Julian Bell III, citing new townhomes on nearby Cherry Street.
The apartment complex would be four stories high and, as planned, incorporate the Little Miss Mag Child Care Center.
Developers of the 100-unit, $9 million apartment project expressed surprise at the city board's last-minute concerns, and they said a long delay could affect the development.
David Hudson, one of the developers, said the metal is gray and corrugated but unlike what was put up on two apartment buildings built recently on Cherokee Boulevard.
Redevelopment corporation members agreed to meet with Mr. Hudson to go over the project in more detail. The panel plans to meet again Thursday.
"In my opinion, we're enhancing the value" of the nearby townhomes, Mr. Hudson said. "It's a little contemporary, but Chattanooga needs that."
Mr. Bell questioned if there was a possibility of using more brick. Mr. Hudson jokingly asked if he was willing to pay for it.
Bob McKenzie, another of the project developers, said only about 5 percent of the planned apartment building's exterior will be metal. The rest will be brick and stone.
He said the project, called Walnut Commons, is "nothing like" the other apartment buildings.
John Wise, who developed the Cherokee Boulevard apartments, could not be reached for immediate comment.
Mike Moon, who developed some of the Cherry Street townhomes, was at the Monday meeting, saying he was curious about how the Walnut Street apartments would look.
"We are curious and concerned about what goes up across the street," he said.
David Dalton, a redevelopment corporation member, said he doesn't recall if he ever knew how the exterior building material would appear.
"I don't know if I ever knew what the material was," he said.
Mr. Hudson, however, said he was surprised by the questions about the building, noting the design was submitted three years ago.
He also said the development group planned to provide "a firm submittal" Wednesday for a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to show "what's submitted is what's going to get built."
But, Mr. Hudson said, he may get the HUD timeline pushed back.
Mr. McKenzie said if the project receives approval, work could start on the apartments in October and be complete in early 2011.
On another matter, the redevelopment corporation did not take up waterfront issues and a fix related to cracking concrete near the docking area at Ross's Landing. Officials said engineers are studying the matter.