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Residents of Regency Senior Living in Collegedale take a morning walk to begin their day.

An assisted living facility is likely moving into the vacant lot south of Academy and Kohl's in Hixson, after planning commissioners gave the project a green light on Monday.

Regency Senior Living, a regional franchise based in Ooltewah, petitioned commissioners at the meeting to rezone the land, which a few years ago was zoned for commercial development.

Rick Stern, one of Regency's principal owners, said during Monday's meeting that the company is excited to finally build a facility here in its own backyard. Regency has opened 10 centers all around Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Indianapolis.

"We see a great need in Hixson for assisted living," he said.

Randy Holcombe, partner and president of the company, said part of that growing need is the overall growth of the Hixson area.

He said many working professionals like to move family members close when taking jobs in a new place.

"We have a lot of folks in our communities who are not from our area," said Holcombe.

The new facility will create between 75 to 100 jobs, and will have 100 to 120 apartments.

The site, which sits between Highway 153 and Grubb Road, is about 9.5 acres and in 1986 was zoned specifically for nursing home use, before it was changed over for commercial use.

"What we look for in a new site is an area that's an up-and-coming development," said Holcombe. "Hixson is a progressive area. It's growing."

He also said that most of the existing assisted living centers in the Hixson area are full, some with waiting lists -- and the number of seniors continues to grow as people live longer.

"Ten years ago, the average age of someone in assisted living was upper 70s," said Holcombe. "Now it's upper 80s."

The project is waiting now for its hearing in front of the Chattanooga City Council. But if the project is approved by the city, construction of the facility should begin soon.

"We would like to have that thing ready to open in the next year," said Holcombe.

Property and facility costs included, the new center is projected to cost about $16 million.

And since the Hixson facility will be Regency's only in the city, Holcombe said it will serve as a showplace for visitors and potential residents.

Currently, the closest Regency facility is in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.