Enrollment at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has yet to return to its pre-pandemic peak, but real estate builder and developer Chris Curtis remains confident in the demand for off-campus housing near UTC.
Curtis, president of Chattanooga-based Riverside Development LLC, developed the Douglas Heights apartment complex in 2016 and has built or bought a handful of other housing and retail buildings near the UTC campus over the past decade. Earlier this month, Riverside Development acquired the five-story Edge apartments at 422 Vine St. for nearly $6.6 million, according to property filings with the Hamilton County Register of Deeds.
"We see this as a great asset located virtually on campus, and it seems to make a lot of sense for us as a student housing provider for UTC to make this strategic buy," Curtis said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "It's a well-run asset, and we hope to continue operating it as it is."
The 33-unit apartment complex at the corner of Vine Street and Houston Avenue just off the UTC campus was built in 2016. The Edge offers modern interior finishes along with appliances, including washers and dryers in every unit, hardwood-style plank flooring, custom cabinetry and an outdoor courtyard featuring a fire pit.
The Edge is termed a boutique student housing property in an Opportunity Zone, which allows investors and developers to realize certain capital gains tax advantages from developments in the targeted area
"We're seeing pretty positive trends in this market," Curtis said. "I think there are a lot of avenues for growth along the M.L. King corridor, and we plan on doing more development in the area."
Curtis said the Edge apartments are well located next to UTC and only a few blocks from Chattanooga's central city.
Although the pandemic reduced some enrollment at UTC during 2021 and 2022, Curtis said the university is growing again and demand for downtown and student housing remains strong.
The incoming first-time, full-time freshman class at UTC is up 8.2% this fall over 2022 to 2,229, UTC spokesman Shawn Ryan said. The overall headcount at UTC this fall is 11,283, down slightly from the 11,710 peak in 2019.
"This is in line with the university's growth trajectory from the pre-COVID years, when the first-year class grew from 1,852 in 2015 to 2,297 in 2019," Ryan said. "In a sign that the market for advanced education is growing, the campus also saw a 5.9% increase in new graduate students."
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