700 block building fills downtown 'hole'

Officials say Market City Center holding 125 apartments, commercial space

The Market Street facing view from the balcony of a new apartment building at 728 Market Street is seen on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The nearly-completed building will house 125 residential units.

By the numbers

$30 million - Cost of Market City Center 125 - Number of new apartments $14,000 - Property taxes site was generating a year before the project $300,000 - Anticipated property tax revenue annually from the development Source: The Simpson Organization

The tallest building to go up in the heart of downtown Chattanooga since the 1970s is scheduled to open next week and fill what was a doughnut hole in the city's core for more than a decade.

The 10-story Market City Center, a $30 million structure that will hold 125 apartments along with retail and office space in the 700 block of Market Street, is seen as helping change that part of downtown.

"We hope it will be a shot in the arm," said Boyd Simpson, chief executive of Atlanta-based The Simpson Organization, which is the developer of the tower that sits next to the SunTrust Bank Building.

Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co., said Market City Center is the tallest building since what is now Liberty Tower was raised in the Seventies in the central part of downtown.

Also, the 125 new one-and two-bedroom apartments at 728 Market will add the most number of new rental units in the central city in decades, she said.

"They came in with a very big vision," White said about The Simpson Organization, which also owns Warehouse Row downtown and the SunTrust Building.

Simpson said his company, which has properties in seven Southern states, has invested about $90 million into the Scenic City.

"If we find the right project, we'd do something else downtown," he said.

Apartment rents in the new building will start at about $800 a month for 25 "workforce housing" units which were a part of a payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with the city, Simpson said. The most expensive apartments will go for about $2,000 a month, he said.

There are eight different configurations of apartments, including three units for handicapped residents.

A restaurant new to the Chattanooga market is signed up in one of about a half dozen such spaces on the ground floor, but Simpson declined to immediately name the eatery.

Simpson said he expected the retail and office space in the building, which take up the first two floors, likely will lease slower than the apartments. The commercial space is expected to lease from between $20 to $30 per square foot.

He said the company has about 100 names of prospective apartment dwellers and plans to start leasing the units next week. Move-in is slated to begin in early October.

The building also will hold a large roof terrace midway up the building that stretches nearly the length of the structure. An indoor resident lounge is attached to one side of the terrace.

The site, which The Simpson Organization bought from River City in 2015, had been a long vacant parcel surrounded by other buildings.

In 2000, River City bought the land and the two- to three-level brick buildings it then held. Another developer proposed new housing and retail in 2005 and the lot was cleared.

But nothing was built, leaving an empty hole in the city's fabric that served as a location for food trucks and open-air movies.

Simpson said the project is financially feasible because the company's ownership of the SunTrust Building, will offer some parking to Market City Center tenants in addition to the 65 built in the new structure.

"We have a unique situation here," he said. "It allows us to leverage the SunTrust Building."

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.