$79 million apartment project moves ahead in Chattanooga’s Westside

Contributed photo / An aerial photo shows downtown Chattanooga's Westside and the adjacent former Alstom manufacturing site. A $79 million apartment complex on the Westside took a step ahead Monday.
Contributed photo / An aerial photo shows downtown Chattanooga's Westside and the adjacent former Alstom manufacturing site. A $79 million apartment complex on the Westside took a step ahead Monday.

A new apartment complex proposed Monday for downtown Chattanooga's Westside is seen by officials as a key first step toward a vast remake of that part of the city.

The complex, slated to hold 230 units in a $79 million project at 501 W. 12th St., will replace some public housing for College Hill Courts residents as well as offer low- to moderate-income and market-rate apartments, officials said.

A Chattanooga panel Monday gave preliminary approval to issuing up to $35 million of multi-family housing revenue bonds for part of the project.

Betsy McCright, Chattanooga Housing Authority's executive director, termed as "monumental" the approval by the city's Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board.

"It really is. These are the first units people will see coming out of the ground," she said. "That in turn will create more excitement."

The proposed apartments are the first phase of a substantial master plan developed by the housing authority, the city and Westside citizens, said Jim Grauley, of Atlanta-based developer Columbia Residential, at the meeting.

The plan ultimately calls for as many as 1,600 to 1,700 housing units in the neighborhood, said Grauley, whose company is partnering with the housing authority. That includes eventually replacing the housing units at College Hill Courts the housing authority operates, he said.

"It will be higher density than what's there," Grauley said. "It will be larger buildings."

He said the proposed complex will hold three- to five-story buildings with some structured parking.

Last year, city and county leaders unveiled an effort to revitalize about 300 acres of the Westside.

(READ MORE: City, county vote on Westside developments)

Called One Westside, the plan created a special tax zone to help spur reuse of The Bend development on Riverfront Parkway and help provide funding for a possible new downtown school and redevelopment at the site of College Hill Courts housing project nearby.

(READ MORE: Special tax zone proposed to spur redevelopment)

McCright said at the meeting that existing Westside residents were earlier surveyed with questions about kinds of housing, amenities and other development they would like to see.

"Those responses really drove the plan," she said at the meeting about the blueprint in that area, called Westside Evolves. "I feel like we've had significant input."

Hicks Armor, chair of the Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board, said at the meeting he supports the low and moderate housing proposed for the complex.

"We need that, but also I think the mixed housing ... is really good," he said.

The 5-acre site on West 12th Street was transferred from the city to the housing authority and holds a building that will be torn down.

McCright said added financing pieces for the project are to include capital funding from the city, foundation money, housing authority funds and others. She said she presumed city funding would need approval, though she declined to give a figure because she wasn't sure the amount was ready to be publicly disclosed.

Grauley said he'd like to see construction on the apartment complex start in January. He said the first units could open in the second half of 2026.

The boundary of the tax zone approved earlier by city and county officials does not include the area around the College Hill Courts, but the Westside Evolves initiative is seen as a potential $1 billion redevelopment just east of Riverfront Parkway downtown.

The tax zone does include The Bend, the proposed massive redevelopment on the former Alstom manufacturing tract just across Riverfront Parkway. Development at The Bend could be up to $2.3 billion and include thousands of square feet in residential, retail and commercial space, officials have said. The special tax zone allows certain revenues generated by the project to support development, rather than being used for general government services.

The City Council earlier unanimously approved allowing the Chattanooga Housing Authority to apply for a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for Westside Evolves.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

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