Industrial development planned for former Dupont site in Hixson

Contributed photo / A drone photo shows the site of the proposed North River Commerce Center to be developed on 88 acres of the former Dupont property in Hixson.

Like many Chattanoogans, Matt Phillips' economic roots were planted, in part, at the former Chattanooga Dupont nylon plant, which was once one of the city's biggest manufacturing employers with more than 5,000 workers.

"I recall sitting in the parking lot waiting for my grandfather and grandmother, both of whom retired from Dupont, and watching all of those workers coming out of the plant every day," Phillips recalled Monday in a telephone interview.

Dupont ultimately shut down its Hixson plant in 2015 after nearly 60 years of production, although some of the plant was sold to Invista and later Kordsa, which continue to operate much smaller facilities.

As the founding director of the Chattanooga development firm Rise Partners, Phillips is leading an effort to bring back more manufacturing jobs and investment to the North Access Road site where Dupont built its massive manufacturing complex after World War II.

RP Access LLC, an affiliate of the Chattanooga-based development firm Rising Partners, has optioned to buy 88 acres of parking lots and other land now owned by Invista to develop a new industrial park to capitalize on the current shortage of industrial and warehousing facilities in Chattanooga.

The industrial park at a glance

Name: North River CommerceLocation: 88 acres at 4513 North Access Road near the Kordsa plant, previously operated by DupontDeveloper: RP Access LLC, a partnership formed by Rising PartnersProject: 800,000 square feet of industrial and warehouse space will be built with five buildings adjacent to the Kordsa plantSchedule: Developers hope to purchase the property and start initial construction by the end of the yearWebsite:

Known as the North River Commerce Center, the proposed development will bring four new Class A industrial buildings to the Hixson site, each with more than 180,000 square feet of space, plus another 26.4 acres for future development. When built out, the project is likely to bring roughly $100 million or more in new industrial and warehousing investment to Chattanooga.

"While we are still working through our due diligence and entitlement process, our team is putting in long hours in the hopes of delivering a much-needed new industrial park to the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County that, if feasible, will create a substantial economic impact in the form of new jobs and investment in our community," Phillips said in in a statement Monday. "Many of us can tie our roots in Chattanooga back to the Dupont plant so we are excited about the prospect of bringing life back to the site that is currently underutilized and consisting of primarily empty parking lots."

The developers have yet to announce any tenants for the proposed project, but Phillips said North River Commerce Center will be targeted at a mixture of e-commerce and both light and heavy manufacturing businesses seeking to expand or relocate.

The project will represent one of the biggest new additions to Chattanooga's industrial site inventory in years and comes at a time when industrial vacancies are near historic lows in the city, according to real estate experts.

"It is a very competitive market right now, and there is little to no quality industrial space available right now in Chattanooga," said David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp., one of the region's biggest commercial and industrial real estate companies. "That is due to both the strength of the warehousing sector and the lack of industrial land that we have in Chattanooga. No one has really built anything new in the last five years of any magnitude, so we've absorbed about everything that is on the market."

DeVaney said he "is constantly fielding phone calls" from industrial and distribution companies needing 7,500 to 10,000 square feet of space, "and it just doesn't exist right now." Last year, Hamilton County government bought the former McDonald's farm with 2,170 acres in Sale Creek for $16 million, but it may take years before the site is fully developed with roads, sewers and other infrastructure.

Although RP Access has yet to acquire the property from Invista, the buyers have made application to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to develop the property near the Tennessee River, according to legal notices published Monday in the Times Free Press. The department is soliciting public comments about possible affects on water quality from the development, but the state agency said in its notice that the proposed activities will result in minimal degradation to water quality because the applicant plans to provide in-system mitigation to offset any water issues.

Contact Dave Flessner at or at 423-757-6340.