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Staff file photo by Tim Barber/ The Southern Belle riverboat moves upstream on the Tennessee River in this view of land on which senior living is planned on part of the tract.

This story was updated Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at 9 p.m. with more information.

A two-acre vacant tract on Chattanooga's trendy North Shore was bought Friday for $2.8 million by a development group that has plans to put up so-called active senior living housing on the site.

The high-profile property is located at 430 Manufacturers Road across from the Two North Shore commercial development. The land is part of a larger parcel formerly held by Chattanoogan Allen Casey.

"We're very excited," said Clayton Mozingo of developer Second Fifty Properties of Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday about the proposed $30 million project.

Mozingo had earlier said plans called for building a five-story facility called Merrill Gardens Chattanooga. He said the building would hold 136 units.

David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate, said the seller was American River Development. He said the property is one of the last larger tracts on the North Shore.

"I really think this is strategic and will jumpstart the balance of the property," DeVaney said.

American River has 4.6 acres left for development, he said. Another property owner, Jackson Wingfield, has 4.83 acres, DeVaney said.

He said the proposed project is aimed at seniors who want an active lifestyle and aren't ready for assisting living. It will have dining services and a pharmacist on site, DeVaney said.

Late last year, Chattanooga businessman John Clark of American River Development won a zoning variance from a city panel to widen a road into the vacant site for the project and other future development. He said he had seen interest from hotel and apartment developers.

Clark said then that the senior facility was slated to open in about 18 months.

That parcel and nine additional acres was owned for many years by Casey, who had several ideas for the land including a hotel and floating restaurant.

In 2009, Casey brought a barge to the city to put in the restaurant and bar at the riverfront site.

But that project fizzled and the vessel deteriorated over the years, leading to an extended fight over removing the barge, which happened in 2015.

Casey, who developed the Chattanooga Choo Choo into one of Tennessee's top attractions decades ago, and one of his companies filed for bankruptcy in 2014 as he faced a civil trial related to a lawsuit brought by former investors.

Eventually, a 6.6-acre tract at the site was sold for $5.5 million to American River Development.

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

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