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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / The former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher plant is located along South Watkins Street between East 18th and 19th Streets. Part of the former mill and the area around will be transformed into a new neighborhood.

A planned $120 million housing and commercial project, aimed at vastly remaking a large tract off Chattanooga's East Main Street area, won unanimous approval from city planners on Monday.

The proposed project, called Mill Town and located on 30 acres around the former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher textile plant off Dodds Avenue, now will go before City Council members after winning a rezoning recommendation with conditions.

City Councilman Darrin Ledford, also a member of Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission that endorsed the proposal by Collier Construction, cited the project's vision amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This is a good work effort between the Planning Commission and you all," he told Bryant Black, who represented the Chattanooga developer.

No one spoke in opposition to the project.

Ethan Collier, president of Collier Construction, said in an interview last week that the project would hold about 330 units along with apartments and commercial space.

"It will be the largest new neighborhood from the river to the ridge," Collier said.

Collier, who chairs the Planning Commission, stepped aside from his post during discussion of the rezoning and did not vote.

The only sticking point related to conditions put on the project by Planning Commission staffers had involved density that would have capped dwellings at 15 per acre.

The developer wanted a higher density.

"We're working to create a mix-used, integrated residential form," said Black. He said that Collier Construction is finishing a residential development off South Broad that is 16.5 units per acre.

Collier said last week that the company is partnering with Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and the Benwood Foundation in the Mill Town project, for which the developer sought a zoning change to C-3 Central Business Zone from the city planning panel.

"Chattanooga has an affordable housing crisis," he said. "We're working hard to see if we can do our part to address that issue."

The site includes much of the area bordered by East Main, South Lyerly and East 19th streets and Dodds Avenue, which for years has lagged amid the central city's redevelopment.

One of the large former SCT buildings will be saved to house apartments and commercial space, Collier said. The remainder will hold a mix of new construction, including single-family detached houses, townhouses, and quad- and eight-plex units, he said.

Price points are expected to range from about $200,000 to $380,000 each for the units, Collier said.

But roughly 60 residences will be so-called affordable units going to people earning from 50% to 80% of the area medium income, he said.

Collier said he didn't think the COVID-19 outbreak would impact the proposed development. He said that Mill Town would be a multi-year project.

The Benwood Foundation is partnering from the standpoint of neighborhood revitalization, Collier said.

Part of the property was included in a $57 million project last decade to remake the former textile plant into 170 apartments and commercial space.

But that proposal by a St. Louis developer never got off the ground. Called Standard Coosa Lofts, that project on South Watkins Street involved 300,000 square feet of space on 5.5 acres.

But the space, which was vacant for decades, was partially damaged by fire.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / New housing and commercial space is expected to go into the former Standard-Coosa-Thatcher mill and the area around it in a proposed new development along South Watkins Street between East 18th and 19th Streets.
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