UTC breaks ground on $70 million, 600-room dormitory

UTC breaks ground on $70 million, 600-room dormitory

November 18th, 2015 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

A rendering of UTC's new 600-bed dorm

A rendering of UTC's new 600-bed dorm

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Seen from an upper stairway at the Johnson Obear dormitory on Tuesday, this site at the corner of Vine and Houston Streets will be the location of a new 600-unit dormitory on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus.

Seen from an upper stairway at the Johnson...

West Campus Housing facility highlights

› 600 new beds traditional-living style

› 648 car parking spaces and 22 motorcycle spaces

› 231,959 square feet plus 196,163 square feet of parking area

 Dining area with popular concepts: perhaps a Steak and Shake

› Three classrooms to be used by the Living and Learning Communities

 A bookstore outlet

› A demonstration kitchen to help students transition to apartment style living; can also be used for catering events

› Open spaces on each wing and floor and throughout the building and on the grounds to encourage a strong sense of community

 Wired gig service and wireless connections in each student room

 Enhanced security through carded access to all residential areas

Source: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Site of new $70 million University of Tennessee at Chattanooga dormitory.

Site of new $70 million University of Tennessee...

Illustration by Matt McClane

Town and gown should grow closer in downtown Chattanooga, officials said Tuesday, as they broke ground on a new $70 million University of Tennessee at Chattanooga dormitory on the campus' western edge.

"This development is the first step," said Kim White, president and CEO of River City Co., the nonprofit company whose mission is downtown development, as she joined UTC Chancellor Steve Angle and other officials for an afternoon groundbreaking ceremony at Vine and Houston streets.

She recalled her first meeting with Angle, who was picked in February 2013 to lead UTC.

"Chancellor Angle, will you help me get students downtown?" White asked, to which she said Angle replied, "Will you help me get the community on campus?"

"[We're] looking at Vine Street as a major connection, a physical connection, that we have with our community," Angle said.

He painted a picture of a vibrant Vine Street in which students would shop at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in the new dorm, which is due to open in 2018, and eat at a restaurant there, possibly a Steak 'n' Shake.

The dorm will create a sense of community and have in-dorm classrooms, he said, for UTC's Living and Learning Communities in which freshmen are grouped together by interest, including business majors, film buffs and outdoorsy students.

The dorm's parking will be in an underground structure two stories deep, he said, that will be accessed via Houston Street.

The new dormitory will cost about $22 million more than UTC's new $48 million library.

One reason for that, UTC spokesman Chuck Cantrell said, is "This has to have so many more bathrooms."

Vine Street has seen a burst of new development.

UTC opened its new, state-of-the-art $48 million library in December 2014 at Vine and Douglas streets near the new dorm. A five-story, 68-bed student housing project is under construction kitty-corner to the new dorm on the site of the former University Pizza and Deli. And an urban planning exercise suggested that Unum Group, which owns the land between the dorm and Georgia Avenue, build an apartment and retail complex a couple of blocks from the new dorm.

UTC's enrollment dropped this fall by 282 students to 11,388, down from 11,670 last year.

"We can attribute a lot of that to Tennessee Promise," Cantrell said, referring to the state's new program that guarantees to cover all the costs of two years of community college or technical school. It's drawn students away from four-year colleges.

UTC officials hope the new dorm will attract students.

"Part of the four-year college experience is residential life," Cantrell said.

And at Tuesday's ceremony, Student Government Association President Hannah Turcotte said that while students will be happy about 648 additional parking spaces on campus, the new dorm will offer the "less tangible" benefit of a sense of community.

She quoted author Kurt Vonnegut, "What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.


A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Unum has plans to build an apartment and retail complex a couple of blocks from the new dorm. It was, in actuality, a suggestion from an urban planning exercise. The Times Free Press regrets the error.