Clemons, Choo Choo housing options coming soon

Director of operations Heather Everett, right, and receptionist Gabby Palmer stand in a 2-bedroom loft under development at the Clemons building Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The building, which dates back to the early 1920s, is being restored to offer luxury downtown loft apartments by owner and developer Vic Desai.

For more information about The Clemons

* Where: 730 Chestnut St.*Online:* Contact, schedule a hard hat tour: 423-228-0605

For more information about Passenger Flats

* Where: 1351 Passenger St.* Online:* Contact, request info: 423-822-8422

Starting at the top floor of the Clemons building and going story-by-story down to ground level is like walking through a living archaeological dig, each story a less complete version of what the building will be in a matter of months, and every floor offering a better look at the nearly 100-year-old building's bones.

But not for long: developers expect to open the Clemons' 50-plus urban lofts to new residents sometime in December.

The project has been in development since late last year after upstart Chattanooga firm ViaNova Development purchased the vacated Blue- Cross BlueShield office space with an ambitious $7.5 million plan to retrofit the old building for urban-style, downtown apartments.

The ground floor of the building will be devoted to commercial space and a small street corner shop for tenants, where a selection of food and drink items and basic household necessities will be available.

"We're trying to make it so our tenants, when they come home from a long day at work, don't have to go very far to get what they need," said Heather Everett, property manager.

The Clemons will feature mostly two-bedroom units, a few one-bedroom units and one three-bedroom unit per floor.

There are one-bedroom plans from 690 square feet ($1,150- $1,270 a month), two-bedroom options ranging from 1,040 square feet to 1,200 square feet ($1,450-$1,670 a month) and three-bedroom options with 1,100 square feet ($1,800-$1,920 a month).

The three-bedroom floor plans so far are proving popular with early applicants, Everett said.

So are the large two-bedroom units on the Chestnut Street side of the building (the Elder option) that feature three windows looking toward the west and the mountains, she said.

"An obstructed view of Lookout Mountain," said Vic Desai, principal at ViaNova Development, looking out of the sixth-floor Elder loft apartment on Wednesday.

All the Clemons' floor plan options bear names familiar to those who know Chattanooga: the Lookout, the Walnut and the Ocoee, for instance.

Desai brags on the hardy construction of the old building, which was built to house the furniture construction and sales business of the Clemons brothers in the 1920s.

Because it was originally home to light industry, the building has thick concrete floors and a solid infrastructure.

"You're not going to hear anybody up above or down below you, or anything like that," Everett said.

Passenger Flats

Meanwhile, across downtown at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the first residents at the newly remodeled Passenger Flats studio apartments will be moving in the first of next month.

"It's going pretty well," said Adam Kinsey, president of Choo Choo Partners LP. "We just started leasing the units last week."

The historic hotel's owners decided last year, after a cry for more downtown living from local officials, to convert 98 hotel rooms into small, studio apartments ranging from $800 to $850 a month. There are 96 studio units and two one-bedroom floor plans, which will rent for $1,300.

A sprinkler system was installed, coats of fresh paint applied and kitchenettes added to all the new, retrofitted apartments over the past six months.

And Kinsey said even with new downtown living options coming open, the city probably hasn't totally regained all the housing it lost years ago when Cameron Hill living options were demolished.

He said demand for downtown living is good right now, despite all the up-and-coming developments.

"The demand is obviously up, and our inventory is less," he said.

Seven acres belonging to the hotel, entertainment and apartment complex are currently up for sale and could be developed for even more apartments. But Kinsey said what happens when the land is sold will be ultimately out of the Choo Choo's hands - though he and other officials at the Choo Choo are going to be picky about selling the property, he said.

"We are only doing the 98 apartments, which are Passenger Flats," he said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.