As a caterer, investor and enthusiast for the diversity of urban life, DeDe Dubose Engsberg was an early believer in the potential of the redeveloping Main Street and downtown Chattanooga's Southside.
She and her husband, Towson, live on Main Street where they own three properties and have watched the spreading redevelopment along Main Street.
During her runs in the neighborhood, Dede Engsberg was intrigued by an abandoned factory along the Norfolk Southern rail lines a couple of blocks off of Main Street on Rossville Avenue. The factory where the Andrews Paper Box Co. once cranked out boxes has been vacant or used for metal recycling warehouse space for years, but Dede saw the potential for a new use of the property.
"I just loved these buildings and when this property went on the market (in 2016) we made an offer to buy it without having any idea what we were going to do with it," she recalled. "We definitely took the leap before we thought too hard, but we knew the great potential for this site."
Nearly four years after their property purchase, the Engsbergs are working with other partners to build a $25 million mixed-use development to breathe new life into an old part of town.
By early 2021, the abandoned factory, warehouse and former metal storage yard will be converted into a new commercial development anchored by a new steakhouse and commercial complex with 17 apartments. Behind the former box-making plant, residential lots are being prepared for Greentech Homes to build up to 42 townhomes.
Known as Burnside, the complex will be one of the biggest redevelopment projects yet in the Main Street area east of Central Avenue and on the other side of the Norfolk Southern rail line that abuts the property.
"This property will have a huge impact on the Southside," Dede Engsberg said. "We've invested in the Southside for more than 20 years, and we know that this next venture will draw even more residents to our favorite side of town."
Number Ten Steakhouse coming
The unique urban and historic environment appealed to restaurateur Vern Kennedy, who plans to convert part of the old factory into a Number Ten Steakhouse. The restaurant's flagship location is in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and the 7,000-square-foot restaurant planned in the Burnside complex will be only the second location for the Number Ten Steakhouse brand, which bills itself as offering a classic steakhouse experience at an affordable price. The menu for the new restaurant will be unique to Chattanooga, with a focus on regional and sustainable ingredients, Kennedy said.
"Chattanooga blew us away with its unmatched market growth," he said. "The city's flourishing demographic makes it the epicenter of investment and growth in the region. Combined with the Southside's style and atmosphere, this is the perfect place for us to expand."
The new restaurant will offer both indoor and deck-covered outdoor seating when it opens in early 2021.
Project at a glance
Name: Burnside, derived from the name of Oliver Burnside Andrews who built the cardboard factory in 1912
Location: 2100 Rossville Avenue on the site of the former Atlas Paper Box Co., and surrounding 42 acres
Key elements: Number Ten Steakhouse will anchor the mixed-use development in the renovated factory which will also include 60,000 square feet of retail, commercial and 17 apartment units. Behind the renovated factory, 42 new townhomes are planned.
Investment: $25 million
Developers: SEI Ventures (owned by principals Towson and DeDe Dubose Engsberg and Nathan Kirkman of DNK Development LLC) is redeveloping the factory site. GreenTech Homses is developing the 42 townhomes.
Builders: Designed by Tom Bartoo of Method Architecture, Croxall Construction is the general contractor
Finacing: Renasant Bank in Atlanta
Web site: burnsidetn.com.
Towson Engsberg has more than 25 years' experience as a commercial general contractor specializing in corporate office and hospitality projects. He said the former box plant — built more than a century ago and used most recently for a metal recycling building — is in one of the best conditions of any historic building he has worked on during his building career.
Work began on the project last November after developers gained regulatory approval for zoning changes and environmental remediation on the former industrial site.
Apartments and townhomes
In addition to the new steakhouse, the three-story structure will house 17 one-bedroom apartment units, averaging about 700 square feet per unit. The apartments will share a common area on the third floor and have access to a rooftop deck that overlooks both the Norfolk Southern rail line along the property and Chattanooga's downtown skyline only about a mile away from the building.
The overall Burnside development is split by a rail line still used on train excursions offered by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.
On the other side of the tracks from the former factory building, land is being cleaned up for GreenTech Homes to begin building 42 townhomes, which will include two- and three-story units ranging in size from 1,800 to 2,400 square feet. Chris Anderson, director of development at GreenTech Homes, said the area will focus on shared green space, outdoor living, multiple porches for every home and modern design.
"This is just what our home buyers say they are looking for in the Southside," Anderson said. "Walking access to restaurants and shops, shared outdoor space, places to walk their dogs and low-maintenance living — this development will offer all that and more."
Anderson said GreenTech expects to begin construction of the first homes later this spring. The prices for the homes will likely be in the $250,000 to 350,000 range, Anderson said.
Despite the slowdown in the economy caused by the coronavirus, the developers are moving ahead with what they see as a unique project built for the long-term future.
"We've had a lot of success selling homes downtown and on the Southside, and there is still very high demand for such housing," Anderson said. "We're really excited to be building right next to what is a new commercial community as well."
GreenTech expects to begin advance selling of its homes by this summer.
Offices and retail planned
The commercial buildings are already under construction, and full completion is expected in the spring of 2021.
The architect for Burnside, Method Architecture, is also buying into the area with the recent purchase of a 5,000-square-foot building on Rossville Avenue adjacent to the former Andrews Paper Box building. The two-story building is being renovated to house Method Architecture and will offer other office space for rent.
Dede Engsberg said the site of the Burnside development was largely vacant so no one is being displaced by the development. Engsberg said she expects the new development will add to the urban diversity amid the recycling businesses, warehouses, restaurants and other housing around the project.
"It was important for us to find a location we could invest in where no one was being displaced from their home," she said.
The site is named after Oliver Burnside (O.B.) Andrews who built the original factory buildings in 1912. The project will draw on that industrial past, blending exposed brick with natural light to create a unique visual experience Dede Engberg said.
"This collaborative project will dramatically revitalize this overlooked section of the Southside," she said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.
The project's namesake: Who was Oliver Burnside Andrews?
The new Burnside development takes its name from Oliver Burnside Andrews, the son of former Chattanooga mayor Col. Garnett Andrews and the founder of the Andrews Paper Box Co. between Central and Rossville avenues. The company's products included packaging as well as cardboard novelties such as "Alice in Wonderland" playhouses that it produced during the Great Depression. Andrews signed a contract with Disney to make cardboard toys of Mickey Mouse.
In addition to running his cardboard company, O. B. Andrews was described in the 1913 Hale-Merritt History of Tennessee, Volume VII, as an active civic leader in Chattanooga.
Andrews helped organized the Chattanooga Baseball Club in 1909, and later moved the club from Chamberlain Field to Andrews Field, where Engel Stadium now stands. Andrews also worked with Mayor T. C. Thompson to establish the city's Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
After the floods of 1917-18 inundated much of Chattanooga, including his cardboard plant, Andrews served on a flood prevention committee of the County Court. Along with Garnet Carter, Andrews also developed the Fairyland subdivision on Lookout Mountain.