When Lee Bissinger moved to Chattanooga three years ago from downtown Nashville to live in a more comfortable mid-size city, he was one of the first 30 tenants of Passenger Flats where he has lived for the past three years while finding and now building a new home in Chattanooga.
Bissinger said he was attracted to the 320-square-foot apartment, despite its limited size, because of the swimming pool, clubhouse and other amenities in the former Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel room and its location in the heart of the redeveloping Southside.
If you go
The Downtown Living Tour is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 18, starting at the Waterhouse Pavilion, 850 Market Street. Participating apartment and condo complexes include on the Southside: Passenger Flats at 1351 Passenger St., The Henry Lofts at 1920 Chestnut St., Bluebird Row Apartments at 1350 Passenger St., 17 Broad at 1701 Broad Street, and 1400 Chestnut Apartments; in the central city: The Tomorrow Building at 818 Georgia Ave., Market City Center at 728 Market St., Walk2Campus UTC at 605 Lindsay St., and The Maclellan at 721 Broad St.; on the riverfront: Vista Cameron Harbor at 805 Canal St., Riverset Apartments at 2 Market St., and Lindsay 414 at 414 Lindsay St.; and on the Northshore: 10 North at 20 Cherokee Blvd., and Five Points Northshore at 328 Cherokee Blvd.
"I was an early adopter and I have fallen in love with the Southside and being able to walk to so many restaurants and entertainment places," the 51-year-old Passenger Flats renter said. "It's a small space, but it has helped me figure out what's important in designing my new house and while I've been here a lot more folks have found out about this area."
To help fill all of those new apartments, downtown landlords are opening up nearly a dozen downtown apartment complexes to visitors during the second annual Downtown Living Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The self-guided tours, which will start with prizes and information at the Waterhouse Pavillion and include shuttle rides between the apartment projects, will offer tours of five complexes on the Southside, four in the central city and a pair on the North Shore.
"Last year, we hosted over 700 attendees who were interested in living in downtown Chattanooga and we anticipate another great crowd in 2019," said Kim White, president of the River City Company which is sponsoring the Downtown Living Tour. "We took the feedback from last year's event from participants and property managers, and we made this year's event better with extended tour hours, an expansive list of post tour perks at local restaurants and narrowed down the tour to focus on apartments only."
With nearly $1.2 billion dollars of private investment in the downtown area since 2015, White said the central city and nearby Southside and North Shore have added 3,223 apartment units and 1,917 beds for students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga since 2015.
With the record number of new apartments added in and around downtown in recent years, some projects like the proposed apartments in the First Tennessee Bank building have been delayed while other complexes such as the Market City Center remain less than half full.
But many of those who have made the move downtown say they are glad they did and expect, over time, most of the vacancies will ultimately be filled or redeveloped into other uses.
"In 2018, I was looking for an apartment in downtown Chattanooga and came across the Downtown Living Tour," said Alex Grell, a Nebraska native who relocated from Red Bank into the new Bluebird Row apartments on the Southside after going on last year's tour. "It was a great opportunity to explore multiple options conveniently in one day without having to set up multiple individual appointments, and I ended up signing a lease at one of the properties I toured and am loving living in downtown."
George Merriman, a 47-year-old resident of Passenger Flats, said he decided to move downtown because most of his activities were already in the central city.
"It's so convenient for me that when I get home at night, I park my car and walk or bike to wherever I need to go," he said. "I grew up out in Ooltewah — almost to Birchwood but I love living downtown now."
Corina Mapp, another Passenger Flats tenant, said she never envisioned living downtown before she moved into the Choo Choo apartments in February.
"But I love it," she said. "I can walk or take the bus pretty much wherever I need to go."
Saturday's tour of the downtown area apartments is free and participants are encouraged to pre-register at www.rivercitycompany.com and to check in at Miller Plaza, 850 Market St.
In addition to the apartment stops on the tour, 16 restaurants scattered along the tour route are offering deals and discounts to tour participants who need a break in between stops or a place to unwind when finished. Those participating eateries includes Bantam + Biddy, Alimentari, Pinkberry, Peet's Coffee, Moe's Original BBQ, Community Pie, The Mad Priest, Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint, Jefferson's, Pizza Bros, Stevarios, Naked River Brewing Company, State of Confusion, Stir and Scottie's on the River. And at each stop on the tour, participants can receive a stamp on his or her tour passport which can be turned in at the end of the tour for a chance to win a Downtown Chattanooga prize package.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340