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Contributed photo / The Riverton site on the riverfront near Lupton City could become a $300 million mixed use development.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10:49 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2019, to correct the rezoning category from C-1 to C-2 in the fifth paragraph.

The owner of a 2-acre Hixson Pike tract won approval Monday for commercial zoning where he hopes to put a development to serve the nearby $300 million Riverton mixed-use community.

"One of the reasons we bought it is because we knew Riverton was coming in," said Matthew Mucciolo, one of the owners of the mostly vacant land located on three parcels at 3820, 3834, and 3836 Hixson Pike.

Mucciolo said that Riverton, a 200-acre residential and commercial project that would be largest in Chattanooga in decades proposed by developer John "Thunder" Thornton, is located just behind his property.

Mucciolo said he could foresee a shopping center or storage units on the site, though he drew the OK on Monday from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission to use part of the land for a used-car lot.

He said used cars aren't his first choice for the site, though he needed some proposed use to gain rezoning from residential R-1 and R-4 to commercial C-2.

The tract is one of the largest remaining largely undeveloped parcels on that portion of Hixson Pike between Lupton Road and Ashland Terrace. Mucciolo said there's just a small, 40-foot by 60-foot building on the property.

He said the property has 600 feet of frontage on Hixson Pike, adding that he'd like to see development to make it attractive.

"I've had people asking me to do restaurants and other things," Mucciolo said.

The rezoning, which is slated to go before the City Council for its approval on Feb. 11, was OK'ed over the objections of Mark Mullins of the Fairfax Heights-Bagwell City-Lupton City Neighborhood Association.

Mullins said the association was having a community meeting on Monday night and wanted Mucciolo to brief that group before the Planning Commission endorsed the zoning change.

"Everyone I've talked to is opposed to a used-car lot," he said.

But Mullins added that he knows that the site will see development.

"It's Hixson-Pike. We know we're going to see something," he said. "We don't want Hixson-Pike to become Rossville Boulevard."

That part of the city has attracted a variety of used-car lots.

Also, there were concerns by panel member Mary K. Hiatt about traffic in that part of Hixson Pike.

"There's a car accident about every single day," she said.

Early developers of the Riverton mixed-use community had drawn up plans for some 400 homes around a village of neighborhood restaurants, stores and medical offices. Although Thornton said earlier that he's was still studying the site and developing plans, he has estimated the project should bring $300 million of investment as it's built out over the next five years or so.

"To have 200 acres so close to downtown Chattanooga along the Tennessee River looking across the river at forests and the beautiful Lookout Mountain in the background makes this a spectacular piece of property," Thornton said.

The site has 3,500 feet along the river just upstream from the Champions Tennis Club near the abandoned Lupton mill site where Dixie Yarns and later R.L. Stowe once operated a thread mill. The property, which includes the nine-hole Lupton City golf course, is the biggest privately owned undeveloped site on the river within Chattanooga's city limits.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee for many years had owned the riverfront property, but sought to sell it after building its new downtown headquarters on Cameron Hill.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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