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Douglas Heights apartments feature a pool and outdoor seating Friday, July 29, 2016.

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Douglas Heights seen spurring M.L. King development

College dorm living these days isn't like what you may recall.

Douglas Heights, near the UTC campus just off M.L. King Boulevard and Douglas Street, opens today to students and other residents with about 400 people expected to start moving into the seven-story, $41 million building.

They will find rooms with granite kitchen countertops, garbage disposals, a bathroom for every bedroom, furnished living areas, laminate wood floors, balconies, a pool, a fire pit, tanning beds and a fitness center among the amenities.

"There's nothing like this in Chattanooga," said Chris Curtis, president of Riverside Development. "We're encouraged by the response."

The developer said he hired a Dallas architect and toured a lot of college properties before deciding what he wanted to put into the new market-rate housing, which he expects to spur more development on and around M.L. King.

"This will be a huge catalyst," he said, helping to bring more foot traffic to the area, a part of downtown that has been slow to redevelop. "You'll see these [nearby vacant] spaces get filled."

The 354,000-square-foot building has 691 beds in two-, three- and four-bedroom configurations. While catering to college students, Curtis said, he also expects to see a contingent of young professionals living in Douglas Heights.

When it's filled, he believes it will house about 80 percent students. Rent starts at $700 per person, he said, which is the price of the majority of the units.

"That's pretty much all inclusive," Curtis said, including utilities, internet service and furnishings. "We feel like it will fill up this year."

Meshari Alshammari, a 23-year-old University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student, said he likes the idea of being among the first to live in the new building.

"The rent isn't that bad," said the Saudi Arabian studying English as a second language, adding that he likes the "sunny pool."

Mamdouh Aldossary, 24, also a Saudi studying English, said he likes the proximity to the university, the furnished apartments and that each bedroom has its own bath.

He also mentioned the parking, with the building's bottom two floors holding 434 spaces. A surface parking lot also sits next door.

On the first residential floor, there's a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse with a pair of garage-sized, roll-up doors that open to a large outdoor balcony facing the campus. Inside, there's a fireplace, a 90-inch TV and a game room.

"Obviously this will be the fun space," Curtis said.

DOUGLAS HEIGHTS BY THE NUMBERS

* Size: 354,000 square feet

* Stories: 7

* Beds: 691

* Starting rent: $700 per person

* Project cost: $41 million

Source: Riverside Development

Also on the first floor is a large study room for students. Smaller such rooms are located on the other residential levels.

Jessica Long, Douglas Heights' community manager, said every unit has its own washer and dryer. In-wall ports to recharge smartphones and other electronic devices are located near the kitchen counters, she said. A gig of internet power will service each unit.

Apartments have a 43-inch TV, she said, and most have balconies. Long noted there's plenty of pantry space, quipping that they can hold 1,260 packs of ramen noodles and 588 packages of Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Long said the building has an "extensive security and surveillance system," with a pair of Chattanooga police officers living on site who will serve as first responders.

Curtis said the project has brought more lighting to the area, and there has been virtually no theft during construction.

A native Chattanoogan, Curtis said he has been in the construction and development business for about 16 years, building storage units, truck stops and other projects, mostly in Texas.

One of his employees on the real estate side of the business found the land to hold Douglas Heights and "we decided to pull the trigger."

He's looking at potentially building two other phases of similar housing nearby, Curtis said.

But first, he plans to develop nearby buildings on M.L. King. One project on the UTC side of M.L. King would house mixed-use space including 28 apartments, he said.

Others businesses plan to move into the area as well, Curtis said.

"Douglas Heights is bringing a lot of attention to the MLK corridor," he said.

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

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