Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise helped revitalize Chattanooga's Southside 20 years ago when CNE first began building homes in the then-blighted, now-thriving neighborhood.
Now the nonprofit housing organization has set its sights on Highland Park and the adjoining neighborhood to the east, Ridgedale.
• The Mai Bell is located at 1728 Bailey Ave. in Highland Park. For more information about the Mai Bell apartments, visit www.cneinc.org/themaibell or contact Zach Downs at 423-756-6242.
CNE will hold a grand opening at 4:30 p.m. July 14 for The Mai Bell apartment complex at the corner of Bailey Avenue and South Hawthorne Street that's named for Mai Bell Hurley, one of CNE's founders, a patron of the arts and the first woman elected to the Chattanooga City Council. The public is invited to celebrate the opening of the $4.37 million, three-story, 49-unit building.
Forty-one of the apartments are one-bedroom units, which tend to attract single people without children — or urban pioneers — said Bob McNutt, real estate development manager at CNE.
That was CNE's experience about 20 years ago, he said, when it first began building homes in the Southside before Battle Academy, an award-winning K-5 school, was built at Market and Main streets.
"We didn't have a single buyer who had children," McNutt said in January after he addressed the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission. "I used to joke we had 'risk-oblivious' buyers. They wanted to be in the city. They wanted to not be in these white-bread [suburban] subdivisions."
Rent for the market-rate units ranges from $800 for one-bedroom units up to $1,500 for a three-bedroom. Eleven of the 49 units will be income-restricted for lower-income households. Monthly rent for income-restricted units starts at $462. The 11 income-restricted units had 80 applicants, and CNE picked 11 residents randomly Monday in a lottery.
"We're probably going to get a younger and possibly an older market, too," McNutt said Tuesday. "I'm hoping we get a good mix of ages and a good mix of incomes — all in the same building."
The new apartment building — said by CNE to be Highland Park's largest residential housing investment in 50 years — is just one example of CNE's efforts in Highland Park and Ridgedale.
Tiny homes, Ridgedale developments
In 2015, CNE built a 532-square-foot home on South Willow Street that sold for $79,900.
CNE also sold land that formerly held a vacant Tennessee Temple University dormitory on Kirby Avenue at South Hawthorne Street to allow construction of a neighborhood of one- and two-bedroom "tiny homes" around 800 to 1,200 square feet in size on Kirby. Three 800-to-900-square-foot homes are slated for construction soon on land that CNE sold at Hawthorne and 12th streets, where a condemned house was bulldozed last year.
In Ridgedale, CNE got rezoning to build four two-bedroom homes planned for Vance Avenue.
CNE plans to build a mix of homes in Ridgedale on three blocks at Bailey and Union avenues just east of South Willow Street, ranging from 800 to 1,200 square feet, along with two-story and three-story apartment buildings, some of which would have first-floor retail spaces.
The Mai Bell apartment complex was designed by Elemi Architects and built by Embark Project Services. There is one available commercial space on the ground floor.
"We named the building in her honor as a tribute to her work and to ensure that her legacy is memorialized for future generations of Chattanoogans," said Martina Guilfoil, president and CEO of CNE. Hurley died in 2015.
The income-restricted units are made possible by a HOME funds grant through the city of Chattanooga's Department of Economic and Community Development. The project was financed by First Tennessee Bank, NeighborWorks America, the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Benwood Foundation.
Affordable housing is important to build in Highland Park, Guilfoil said, because some new market-rate houses being built there cost in the upper $200,000 range.
"Income-restricted housing in Highland Park is important so people of all incomes can continue to benefit from living in Highland Park," she said.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.