$120 million neighborhood planned in Chattanooga's East Main Street area

Staff photo by Mike Pare / Demolition work already has begun around the former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile plant off East Main Street, which is slated to hold new housing and commercial space.

The biggest housing and commercial project to go up in Chattanooga's East Main Street area in decades is planned for about 30 acres around the former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile site.

Called Mill Town, the $120 million development would hold about 330 units along with apartments and commercial space, said Ethan Collier, president of Collier Construction.

"It will be the largest new neighborhood from the river to the ridge," the Chattanooga developer said.

He said the company is partnering with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and the Benwood Foundation in the project, for which the developer is seeking a zoning change to C-3 Central Business Zone on Monday from a city planning panel.

"Chattanooga has an affordable housing crisis," he said. "We're working hard to see if we can do our part to address that issue."

The site includes much of the area bordered by East Main, South Lyerly and East 19th streets and Dodds Avenue, which for years has lagged amid the central city's redevelopment.

One of the large former SCT buildings will be saved to house apartments and commercial space, Collier said. The remainder will hold a mix of new construction, including single-family detached houses, townhouses, and quad- and eight-plex units, he said.

Price points are expected range from about $200,000 to $380,000 each for the units, Collier said.

But roughly 60 residences will be so-called affordable units going to people earning from 50% to 80% the area medium income, he said.

Martina Guilfoil, who heads the nonprofit Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, said Collier approached CNE with his vision for the property and building a mixed-income neighborhood.

"What we like that, as a private developer, he took the initiative to think through about how can I do something that includes affordably priced units," she said.

At the same time, CNE was looking strategically to deploy its resources to make an impact in neighborhoods," Guilfoil said. "The two things converged together."

She said Collier plans to build the affordable housing seamlessly into the project so those units won't appear out of place. Guilfoil said she's hopeful the model can be replicated elsewhere.

The Benwood Foundation is partnering from the standpoint of neighborhood revitalization, Collier said.

Collier is chairman of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, which will hear the rezoning on Monday. Collier in the past has recused himself when projects come up in which he is involved. The City Council also would need to approve the rezoning.

"We want to celebrate the existing community and not replace it," Collier said. "It's the opposite of gentrification."

Part of the property was included in a $57 million project last decade to remake the former textile plant into 170 apartments and commercial space.

But that proposal by a St. Louis developer never got off the ground. Called Standard Coosa Lofts, that project on South Watkins Street involved 300,000 square feet of space on 5.5 acres.

But the space, which was vacant for decades, was partially damaged by fire.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.