Metalworking to mixed-use: Augusta developer to build on 18-acre complex behind Erlanger, UTC

photo Developers plan to build a mixed use project on the 18-acres occupied by the shuttered Cumberland Corp., also known as Cannon Equipment at 950 Riverside Dr.

Developers will pursue an 18-acre mixed-use development on Riverside Drive, filling the husk of a 300,000-square-foot metalworking plant that dates back to 1947, officials said Friday.

The empty manufacturing plant at 950 Riverside Drive -- known alternately as the Cumberland Corp., or Cannon Equipment factory -- has been vacant since it was shuttered by its British owners in July 2012. The plant once employed hundreds of workers on the lot, which features equally good access to the interstate and Chattanooga's downtown amenities, and a 30-second walk to the Tennessee River.

"I really think the location being near the river and at the back of Erlanger and UTC are huge assets, and contributed to our liking the site," said Chris Senn, vice president of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial.

Blanchard and Calhoun took out an option on the property two month ago after examining the site for the last year. The current plan is for the company to execute the entire development on its own, rather than seek out incentives or local partners.

"We have the property under contract and we're moving forward with plans at this time to do a mixed-use development," Senn said. "We're still trying to figure out exactly what the mix will be, but we do know it will be some form of residential and perhaps office or other uses."

This won't be the first big project for the Augusta, Ga.-based development company. Blanchard and Calhoun has previously built or redeveloped hundreds of projects across the Southeast, including the old Baptist Hospital in Knoxville. That $165 million project will create office, multifamily and retail space out of the shuttered medical building there.

The Hamilton County Assessor of Property values the Chattanooga property, including an 11,000-foot office structure, at $4.35 million. But no deal has been finalized, Senn said, and the company has yet to finish its purchase of the property from current owner IMI plc. Senn also doesn't know how much the company will eventually spend on construction or development.

"We're going through our planning process and from there, we'll evaluate what the next steps are," Senn said.

Senn isn't the only party interested in the site. Chattanooga officials plan to extend Central Avenue from its current termination at Erlanger through the middle of the abandoned manufacturing complex, bisecting the property in order to reach Riverside Drive. Such a plan could disrupt efforts to build on the potentially historic site, which some officials suggested could be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

But the new stretch of blacktop could also add new access for potential tenants, and a traffic light at Central Avenue's new intersection with Riverside Drive would allow residents to easily access the river.

"Amnicola Highway is a very busy roadway, and with the talk of this new access, we think there is a lot of potential," Senn said. "In today's market, it's really hard to find a good site. We'll try to move forward as quickly as possible."

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or with tips and documents.