Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise got early approval for two Highland Park projects at Monday's planning commission meeting, with planners endorsing plans for CNE to demolish an old Tennessee Temple University dorm, construct new single-family homes and build a mixed-use building with 45 apartments on Bailey Avenue.
CNE wants to replace a dilapidated four-story, 76-unit dorm in the 1700 block of Kirby Avenue and replace it with nine detached, single-family homes. Seven of the proposed lots will be 31 feet wide, one will be 40 feet wide and the last will be 45 feet wide.
CNE purchased the property two years ago, along with several others. On the former dorm site, "we are preparing to do higher-quality, but smaller-footprint" homes, said Bob McNutt, real estate development manager at CNE.
The homes will be under 1,000 square feet and cost around $100,000. CNE is seeking the property's R-4 Special zoning be changed to R-T/Z Residential Townhouse Zero Lot Line zoning.
* Apartment complex may replace vacant Tennessee Temple dormitory* CNE buys Tennessee Temple lots for affordable housing as neighbors question piecemeal approach
* Tennessee Temple's neighbors want old dorms razed
* Tennessee Temple University puts Highland Park campus on market
* Tennessee Temple lists its property to sell at $19.6 million
But some neighbors at Monday's meeting took issue with building the less expensive homes, saying that houses around the proposed CNE homes cost more than $100,000, and that the new properties may drag other home prices down.
"The price point is much lower than a lot of houses where people have come in and renovated," said Marty Mauldin, resident and president of the neighborhood association.
Her husband, Glenn Mauldin, asked that planning commissioners whittle down CNE's proposal and allow the construction of only six homes on the dorm site.
"You have houses across the street that people have spent thousands and thousands on to renovate to bring them back to their original glory," he said.
Yusuf Hakeem, planning commissioner and chairman of the Chattanooga City Council, said he didn't believe CNE should be exclusive with its new Highland Park homes by pricing potential residents out.
He said at one time, the community had 114 "drug houses" and that over the years, residents have worked to oust the drug stops, push crime out and make Highland Park a better, safer community — for anybody who wants to come.
"If this is quality development — whether six or nine [homes] — you still feel that would depreciate your property?" Hakeem asked.
"We are in the inner city," he continued, "and there's a limited amount of land. If that citizen who is in need of housing wants to buy a house and can't do it, what mindset does that put them in?"
But Highland Park residents said exclusivity isn't their goal in opposing the CNE homes.
"What we're trying to do is not let Highland Park be a poster child for other peoples' projects," said Jack Money.
Money said owners of residences in Highland Park should live in Highland Park themselves.
Commissioners agreed to send the project on to city council, with Hakeem adding a condition that no more than nine new homes be allowed on the property.
Mixed-use on Bailey
CNE also is planning to build a three-story, mixed-use building in the 1700 block of Bailey Avenue. The proposed building will have 1,600-square-feet of ground-level retail and office space and 45 apartments on the upper stories.
The proposed building is to go on a vacant tract currently zoned for R-4 Special use. CNE is seeking UGC Urban General Commercial zoning.
"Our target market here is young, urban professionals who get up and go to work everyday," said McNutt.
Twelve of the 45 proposed units will be income-restricted, with one-bedroom units renting in the $500- to $600 a month range. Non-income-restricted one-bedroom units will rent for $800 a month, and two- and three-bedroom options will go up from there.
McNutt said CNE would like to have some retail and office space on the ground floor of the building, with maybe a coffee shop-type business.
Emerson Burch, Highland Park resident, had positive words for both the single-family project and the mixed-use building.
"I've been desperately waiting for something like this," he said.
In terms of the proposed mixed-use building's lot, "this corner is so dead right now," Burch said.
Matt Stevens, another nearby resident, said the income-restricted units would be a welcome addition.
"I left an apartment complex because it was getting too expensive," he said.
But parking was a major concern for the mixed-use development. A handful of residents shared stories of congested roads, clogged alleys and difficulty navigating the neighborhood already.
They said wrecks already occur on the Bailey Road artery and parking already spills over onto side streets.
But Don Moon, planning commissioner, said he imagines that some of the tenants at CNE's proposed apartments will not even have a car.
And "a bus will probably stop right in front of the door," he said.
Moon also said a mixed-use development in Highland Park "is not precedent-setting for the neighborhood."
"Now I'm going way back," he said, referring to an old pharmacy with apartments on the upper floors.
Hakeem praised CNE for taking on the task of the old Temple properties and rehabilitating them.
"Tennessee Temple and CNE have gotten a lot of H-E-L-L with trying to deal with the dorms," he said.
With CNE recruiting young professionals to the neighborhood, "I don't what you could ask for any better than that," he said.
Commissioners also voted to send the mixed-use building on to city council for a vote next month.
Contact staff writer Alex green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480.