CLEVELAND, Tenn. - It was a year ago that Steve and Arlene Brooks moved into their new loft condominium at the Spring Creek development, part of a thus-far $16 million project and Cleveland's only planned mixed-use community.
The Brookses have watched The Retreat at Spring Creek, a 199-apartment complex, materialize on the opposite side of 25th Street and fill up with neighbors. The second phase of that development, an additional 130 or so apartments, recently began.
Meanwhile, in the Spring Creek development, the Brookses have watched single residential homes being built and land being cleared for cottages.
Their growing number of neighbors includes employees coming here to work at Volkswagen, Wacker Chemical and other industries, along with locals like themselves.
During the summer, there will be more commercial announcements for Spring Creek, said marketing director Sandra Rowland, including a restaurant and a bank. Some businesses and homeowners have been watching the economy for two years and now are taking action, she said.
And there are other multifamily residential developments in the planning and talking stages, Cleveland Community Development Director Greg Thomas said.
The result is that Cleveland stands at the brink of big changes. A recent study commissioned by local government and the Chamber of Commerce foresees the city nearly doubling in size by 2035. The 2010 census pegged Cleveland's population at 41,285, up 11 percent from the previous count.
One potential residential development location, at Adkisson Drive and Paul Huff Parkway, "is a little more amenity-laden than usual," Thomas said. And the Cleveland Planning Commission has recommended land along Stuart Road be annexed. Owners of that property, part of Hardwick Farm, have made presentations to city government lately about a similar development there.
"It is not a new thing in the market, but we are just beginning to see it here," Thomas said.
In all, about 1,000 residential units are in the planning or discussion stages, he said.
"I think it has to do with our employment situation," Thomas said. With Volkswagen, Wacker Chemical and Amazon, plus expansions for Whirlpool, Olin Corp., Coca-Cola and others, more jobs are expected, he said.
"I don't think Cleveland knew there was a recession," said Ross Bradley with TDK Developers, the Murfreesboro, Tenn., company building The Retreat at Spring Creek. "If they did, they chose not to participate in it."
When Volkswagen announced its selection of Chattanooga, Bradley said, TDK representatives came to look over the area. They had already heard the talk about Wacker, too.
"We rode around Cleveland for a day, and we didn't see a single upscale apartment development," Bradley said. "We want to see job growth. That's a huge thing for us. It means long-term stability."
Hundreds of anticipated jobs offered that assurance, he said.
"Cleveland does not have the lowest unemployment rate in the state right now," Bradley said. "But we believe when those jobs hit, there will be a huge impact."
Cleveland's unemployment rate for May was 9.5 percent, just slightly less than the state's 9.7 percent, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor. The rate was 8.9 in May 2010. Bradley County's jobless rate was 9.2 percent, up from 8.6 in May 2010.
With a greenway on its doorsteps and short walks to the Lee University campus and downtown, The Retreat at Spring Creek is selling a lifestyle, Bradley said.
"Developers like to sell a lifestyle," he said. "But it takes the right site to do that. There's no way we could do that without everything that surrounds it."
The Brookses said the same. They downsized from a 5,000-square-foot home to their loft condo. He works for a Knoxville-based printing company, and she is an interior designer.
"I like the blank canvas this gives me to work with," Arlene Brooks said. "And the size means I can do everything in an hour. We do a lot of walking, too. This is about a mile and a half to Lee University. It's a great walk."
He jogs. And there are many directions to take for his runs, Brooks said.
"I spent a lot of time in the yard," he said. "With my work schedule that really got tight."
With no landscaping chores, Brooks said, "that frees me up to do more for my company as well as more free time."