More than two years after Tennessee's housing agency approved a federal grant to develop more apartments for people with intellectual disabilities in Chattanooga, the proposed housing project took another step forward Tuesday with the final approval by a nonprofit group created to help finance the new apartments.
The AIM Center, which will operate the new housing complex on East Main Street, joined with the Chattanooga Housing Authority in approving $10.7 million of tax-exempt bonds to be issued for the nonprofit Espero GP Corp. The bond proceeds and other funds, including a $500,000 National Housing Trust Fund grant approved in the summer of 2021, will help finance the planned 60-unit apartment complex on an East Main Street property being donated by the city of Chattanooga.
Anna Protano-Biggs, president and chief executive of the AIM Center in Chattanooga, said the new apartments should be built by 2025 to house people who have mental illness, some of whom are chronically homeless. The new housing will expand the 74 housing units now operated by the AIM Center and offer both housing and assistance for local residents with mental illnesses or challenges.
"It's taken a while because I think the pandemic affected every major construction project, but we're excited to be moving forward with this project," Protano-Biggs said in an interview after the Espero GP board approved the $10.7 million bond issue.
Protana-Biggs said she hopes the bonds needed to fund the project will be issued by the Chattanooga Health and Educational Facilities Board before the end of the year and demolition of the existing Main Street structure should begin by next spring.
The new development will be built at 1815 East Main St. on the 2.4-acre site that now houses a 67,521-square-foot warehouse originally developed by Arcade Marketing, a business that prints fragrance and cosmetics test samples for magazines and advertising. Arcade relocated to Amnicola Highway more than a decade ago, and the city has since used the facility for storage and allowed the Forgotten Child Fund to store toys and other items for several years.
The planned housing project to be built on the redeveloped lot will be the largest single apartment complex operated by the AIM Center and should include support facilities for residents and a public meeting space in the facility, along with plans for an upgraded bus stop along Main Street, Protano-Biggs said.
The project is one of two affordable housing projects scheduled to go to the bond market soon through the city's Health and Educational Facilities Board.
Another planned $20 million bond issue was also approved Tuesday by members of the Chattanooga Housing Authority through a nonprofit company organized as Shallowford GP Corp. Those bonds will fund a 96-unit project at 6402 Shallowford Road.
DGA Shallowford LP plans to build 48 two-bedroom units and the same number of three-bedroom apartments at the vacant site at 6402 Shallowford Road across from the Chattanooga VA clinic.
When the city bond board endorsed the project earlier this year, developer Craig Cobb of DGA Development in Knoxville, the builder of the apartments, said the complex will include six two-story buildings.
"All 96 units will be restricted to low-income (renters)," he said.
Cobb said the complex will also include a clubhouse, playground and open space.