Chattanooga State to offer housing through private venture

Chattanooga State to offer housing through private venture

August 1st, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

Chattanooga State Technical Community College is pictured in this file photo.

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TIMELINE

• Land acquisition is expected to be finalized by Oct. 1.

• Land drawings, planning and contracts done by Nov. 1.

• House students by fall of 2012.

Source: Harshad Shah


ABOUT THE HOUSING PROJECT

• Harshad Shah, president and chief executive officer of Hamilton Plastics Inc., will build and manage a housing complex adjacent to the Chattanooga State campus.

• The land being considered is close to the campus and adjacent to the Tennessee Riverwalk.

• The initial budget for the project is $3 million.

• At least five acres will be needed for the complex.

• Current plan includes 40 one- and two-bedroom units at the beginning and another 40 units six months later.

• The complex will include a small kitchen, reading area, study rooms, laundry and parking.

Source: Harshad Shah

Whether Chattanooga State Community College will be the first community college in Tennessee to have dorms sort of depends on semantics, said the college's president.

Technically, Chattanooga State isn't allowed to have dorms, but that doesn't mean it can't bring in a private company to build and own housing that its students can use. Using that tactic, the college hopes to fulfill its goal of offering housing to its students as soon as fall 2012, said President Jim Catanzaro.

"While there's no prohibition against building dorms, to my knowledge, in community college campuses in Tennessee, there's a long-standing tradition of not doing it, and we felt it would be difficult for us to get therefore state funding to do it, so we looked to the private sector," he said.

Student housing is a key component of Catanzaro's plan ultimately to offer some four-year degrees and grow the college.

"I think it will help the enrollment of the campus," he said.

But there is a prohibition, according to Monica Greppin, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees some of the state's universities and community colleges, including Chattanooga State. The board doesn't allow community colleges to offer residential services, she said.

That won't stop Catanzaro's plan, though.

Harshad Shah, president and chief executive officer of Hamilton Plastics Inc. -- which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month-- said he will build and manage a housing complex adjacent to the college campus.

"We are looking for land that's near the campus where students and/or faculty can walk in and out and go to the campus without a car and within the vicinity of the [Tennessee] Riverwalk," Shah said.

He is in talks with the city and county governments about land acquisition, but once he acquires the property, he will start building and the complex should be ready six months after that, he said.

"When you drive into the campus, I don't think your eye would pick up where the college property ends and the dorm begins," said Catanzaro. "You wouldn't have any sense that this isn't a dorm that is part of the college, yet on the other hand, technically it won't be."

Last year, Catanzaro said land owned by Olan Mills, which is adjacent to the Chattanooga State campus, could be used for housing. The college spent $6.9 million on the photography company's 22 acres, but the land is technically owned by the state. It will be used to house the Wacker Institute -- a program connected with the Wacker Chemical plant now being built in Bradley County -- and other engineering and technology programs, so it can't be used for the apartments, Catanzaro said.

Because housing won't be built on college property and will not use any state funding, it will not need the approval of the Tennessee Board of Regents, he said.

Howard Roddy, a local member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, called Catanzaro's plan creative, but he added he would like to learn more about it.

"If there are no state or student funds needed to support it, I personally wouldn't have any issue with that," he said.

He said it's great if there's a need and Catanzaro can meet it through a private partnership.

Greppin said Chattanooga State's housing plan hasn't been discussed or considered by the board.

For several years now, Catanzaro has said he wants Chattanooga State to expand from its two-year associate degrees to some four-year bachelor's degrees.

This year the school is expected to have more than 13,000 students -- counting both credit and noncredit enrollment such as continuing education and corporate training -- and Catanzaro expects enrollment to rise to 15,000 in the next several years.

Shah said his planned housing complex will have more of an apartment feel than a traditional dorm, with long halls and shared rooms and showers. Students will have the convenience of living within walking distance of campus and having access to its facilities 24 hours a day, he said.

To build the new housing, the college also looked at a piece of land behind the Center for Industry, Business and Health on the west side of the campus, but it turned out to be in a flood plain.

"We would have had dorms right now were it not for the fact the dorms had to be built on -- as it turns out to be -- a flood plain, and the flood plain couldn't be remedied," Catanzaro said.

Catanzaro said adding housing will not increase any of the college's costs.

"The only thing that would be opened longer is the cafeteria, and that would most likely work on a break-even basis," he said. "If you have a sufficient population, which we would, the cost of keeping it open would be covered at a minimum with purchases made."