No one has played tennis for a while on trash-strewn tennis courts built years ago by Tennessee Temple University on Union Avenue in a blighted part of Chattanooga's Ridgedale neighborhood.
But a handful of new single-family homes could sprout up on the old tennis courts just east of S. Willow St., under a development planned by Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprises (CNE).
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission on Monday approved a rezoning sought by CNE to allow 50 to 70 new residential units to be built on three blocks at Bailey and Union avenues just east of South Willow Street — the street that divides Ridgedale from up-and-coming Highland Park.
"You don't see any opposition here," said City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who serves on the planning commission. "[CNE] has met with both Highland Park and Ridgedale on more than on occasion."
CNE, a longtime nonprofit organization formed to promote housing and neighborhood redevelopment, hopes to reinvigorate Ridgedale in the same way its investments help spark development in Highland Park, and before that, Chattanooga's Southside neighborhood, said Bob McNutt, real estate development manager at CNE.
"We hope that it does attract other investment," McNutt said after the meeting. "CNE's role is to sort of be the first one in to set the table."
CNE plans to build a mix of homes on the three blocks in Ridgedale, ranging from 800 to 1,200 square feet, along with two-story and three-story apartment buildings, some of which would have first-floor retail, McNutt said.
"Small, neighborhood-scale apartment buildings," is how McNutt described them, saying the apartment buildings would have between four and eight units and would face the busiest streets: Bailey Avenue and S. Willow Street.
Some of the housing would be affordable, he said, and some would be market-rate.
"We've got a whole range of price points," McNutt said.
Building all of the housing would cost between $5 million and $7 million, he said.
"This is just a plan," McNutt said. "We've still got a ways to go to get the funding."
Some construction could start this summer, he said. CNE could build some of the project, or find outside contractors, McNutt said.
All of the land proposed for development is vacant.
"We do not displace people," said McNutt, who added that neighbors are happy to see the property get developed. "They're tired of looking at a ragged-out tennis court and vacant land."
CNE bought the land from Tennessee Temple University, which was at the heart of Highland Park for decades, but in 2015 moved 300 miles away. In 2013, the campus enclosed itself in a perimeter security fence that closed off streets.
"We bought everything that they would sell us," McNutt said. "Everything outside of that fence that they put up."
CNE has invested elsewhere in the neighborhood. It recently got a rezoning to build four two-bedroom homes on Vance Avenue in Ridgedale, and construction is underway on a $4.7 million, 49-unit apartment complex in Highland Park that's named after the late Mai Bell Hurley, who was one of CNE's founders, a patron of the arts and the first woman elected to the Chattanooga City Council.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.face book.com/MeetsForBusi ness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.