Developers are taking steps to move ahead with new apartments, townhouses and commercial space in the South Broad area in what's pegged as a $75 million project.
"South Broad has not seen a lot of development over the last 30 years," said Joe Fielden of Neyland Apartment Associates in Knoxville. "It may be the biggest project ever in that neck of the woods."
Developers are seeking a variance for building height from Chattanooga planners next month on the nearly 20-acre tract at Broad and West 33rd streets near Chattanooga Christian School.
If the variance is granted, developers plan to erect a 300-unit apartment complex with four levels in the rear portion of the property. Also 76 townhomes are eyed along 33rd Street, while commercial space would go up along Broad, according to plans.
Currently, the site holds an old hotel and warehouse space.
"The hotel has a history. It has had a mixed history," Fielden said. "Ultimately, we see that land as important land to be developed."
Mike Cohen, a project spokesman, said the apartment complex would be brick, fitting in with much of the existing building style in the area.
"You want to tie in with the look and feel of the neighborhood," he said.
Also, Cohen said, virtually everything in the group's proposal is called for in the South Broad District plan which was unveiled in early 2018. The 128-page South Broad report was issued by Chattanooga Design Studio after a series of public meetings in the fall of 2017 that drew several hundred people to provide a vision for that area's future.
The district was seen as a new frontier for Chattanooga with housing for rich and poor, a revitalized Howard School and entertainment including a multi-use minor league ballpark on the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry tract.
Cohen said the 20-acre parcel sits in the city's opportunity zone, a development tool established by Congress that's designed to drive long-term capital to low-income communities.
"That means the developers go into it with a plan to own it at least 10 years," he said. "When you know you will own it that long there is a tendency to build better."
Ann Weeks, president-emeritus of the South Broad Redevelopment Group, has noted that the timing is right for new housing.
"We need rooftops to bring businesses," she said.
Fielden, who said he's working with Chattanooga developer Kevin Boehm, said he thinks there's a lot of interest in the area.
"It would be a full mix-used development," he said, with hopes of starting work next year. But, Fielden said, the project is seen as a multi-year development.
One feature would be using an abandoned rail line that the city owns along 33rd Street to connect with the area's greenway system, Fielden said.
The proposed project is near a planned Publix supermarket approved this spring for the site of the former Mt. Vernon restaurant.
Nearby in St. Elmo, a developer plans a $21 million project that would go on two blocks between Tennessee Avenue and St. Elmo Avenue near the Incline Railway. Shops, residences, offices, parking and a boutique hotel are included in that plan.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.