$200 million in new housing, school proposed for East Brainerd site in Chattanooga

Reuse of the 95-acre Cigna campus eyed

About $200 million in new housing - including single-family homes, apartments and senior living, along with a potential Hamilton County school - are included in a plan to develop an East Brainerd site.

The 95-acre mostly wooded parcel at 7555 Goodwin Road, which holds a large, single Cigna Corp. office building, already is surrounded by homes and commercial space in the busy East Brainerd part of Chattanooga.

"It's unique in that it's one of the last large tracts" in that area, said MAP Engineers owner Mike Price, whose firm is working with Atlanta developer EAH Acquisitions to remake the land with a mix of housing and sell a portion for a possible new elementary school.

"It required us to pay close attention to how it fits in the fabric of the community and balance out what impact will be occurring as a result of that," Price said in a telephone interview.

He put the cost of the entire proposed project "right in the $200 million range."

According to site plans and documents filed with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, the parcel could have 230 single-family lots on 49.4 acres.

Also, another 16.2-acre tract could have 351 apartments along with 617 parking spaces, the plans show.

In addition, 200 units of senior housing could go on a 6.5-acre piece, according to the plans.

The proposed school could go on 18.6 acres where a 98,552-square-foot office building was used as a call center by insurer Cigna. The office building is essentially vacant now as company officials shifted the workforce to their homes amid the coronavirus.

The site plans also show some lots set aside as community space for the project.

The Hamilton County school system continues to consider the idea of reusing the office site as an elementary school, said Steve Doremus, the system's communications officer, in a phone interview.

"We're continuing to pursue that option," he said.

Price said there are negotiations underway regarding selling the property to the system "at an incentivized amount."

Tucker McClendon, chairman of the Hamilton County school board, said in March that buying and renovating the facility could provide a school for 700 to 800 students at only about half the cost of building a new school from the ground up.

McClendon estimated in a phone interview earlier that the building could be bought and renovated for school use at a cost of about $15 million to $16 million, which he said is about half the cost for building most of the county's new schools.

The entire tract is owned by Cigna Corporate through Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., but Price is hopeful the property will be transferred soon to EAH.

The development group is seeking rezoning of parts of the property where housing would go from office to residential. The Regional Planning Agency is expected to hear the case in June.

The proposed project comes as home buying continues to run hot in Hamilton County.

According to the Greater Chattanooga Realtors, the median sales price in April was a record-high $302,500, up 20.5% compared with a year ago. Closed sales in April were down just 4.2% below the record high sales year in 2021.

Cigna put its East Brainerd campus on the market last summer as the company planned to let employees continue to work remotely.

The structure, built in 1990, was updated last in 2019 and 2020, according to Pointe Commercial Real Estate.

Cigna has more than 1,700 employees in the Chattanooga area, and about 800 worked at the East Brainerd site.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.