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Staff photo by Mike Pare / A Starbucks cafe on Highway 153 near the Books-A-Million will be joined by another about a mile away on the Hixson artery this summer.

A Hixson site that held a Holcomb Garden Center for decades is undergoing a makeover to sprout a new Starbucks cafe along with added retail and restaurant space.

Also, another parcel that held a former Holcomb center in Fort Oglethorpe is undergoing a similar revamp into a shopping center, with a McAlister's restaurant already open and a Mexican eatery and Mean Mug Coffeehouse planned, a Chattanooga developer said.

"People are still wanting to do deals" in spite of the pandemic, said Clint Wolford of Wolford Development, which is behind the two new shopping centers each estimated at about 15,000 square feet in size.

In Hixson, the 2,100-square-foot Starbucks at Highway 153 and Berean Road will offer both inside dining and a drive-thru, Wolford said.

Even though there's already a free-standing Starbucks just a mile away on Highway 153, he said that location stays so busy that the new cafe is needed.

"They want to take some pressure off that store with another store," Wolford said. "Chattanooga has been a good market for them."

In addition, there's a Starbucks inside the nearby Target store on Highway 153.

A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company "is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers." About 30 people will work at the new store, according to Starbucks.

The pair of former Holcomb Garden Centers, long a staple in the Chattanooga area, closed in 2019.

Tim Holcomb, who grew up in the business started by his father over 50 years ago, said then that the timing was right to sell the properties. Holcomb's parents, Bill and Bettye Holcomb, started the gardening business in East Ridge. The East Ridge store later moved to Fort Oglethorpe.

Wolford, who is working with businessman and Chattanooga Lookouts co-owner John Woods on the projects, said the remainder of the Hixson center will hold a mix of retail and restaurant space. Wolford said he's still finalizing leases for the center and didn't offer any names of any potential new tenants.

He expected that the Starbucks will likely open in early to mid-summer.

Wolford said his company started sooner on the Fort Oglethorpe site. The McAlister's restaurant opened late last year at 2675 Battlefield Parkway.

Michael Hayes, who owns that restaurant, said the Fort Oglethorpe area has seen a lot of growth and traffic along the parkway.

Wolford, who declined to give the investment for the projects, said that despite the coronavirus pandemic, people are still moving to the Chattanooga area. He said many are shifting from bigger cities such as Atlanta and Nashville.

"They're exiting cities they no longer want to be in," Wolford said. "Chattanooga is a hot market."

Wolford Development a couple of years ago put up a new center in Hixson at Highway 153 and Hamill Road. That location features restaurants First Watch, Mike's Tavern, and California Tortilla.

Also on Highway 153, Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa has put up new buildings outside Northgate Mall to hold retail and restaurant space, including a Panera eatery that will relocate from an existing site near the mall.

Meanwhile, a Chipotle restaurant is under construction on Highway 153 near the mall. Another developer, Dynamic Group, plans to build a TownePlace Suites by Marriott next door.

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

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