A $21 million, mixed-use development in downtown St. Elmo is one step closer to becoming a reality after planning commissioners recommended to approve a rezoning of the site on Monday.
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission unanimously approved to recommend rezoning four tracts owned by Claudia Pullen off St. Elmo Avenue from C-2 commercial to UGC, or Urban General Commercial. The City Council will hear the request at its July 9 meeting.
A mix of shops, residences, offices, parking and a boutique hotel are included in the proposed project that would go on two blocks between Tennessee Avenue and St. Elmo Avenue. The site would include property at 3734 St. Elmo Ave., which formerly held a SunTrust Bank branch for many years, and a triangular tract across West 38th Street that holds the Tap Room Building and 1885 restaurant is included.
In all, more than 100,000 square feet of office, retail space or residential is planned, not including the possible hotel.
Council Chairman Erskine Oglesby Jr., who represents the St. Elmo area, attended the planning commission meeting and said after it that he is excited for the development.
"It's a development that is really going to be good for St. Elmo," he said. "The UGC zoning fits in line with the character and what the citizens want to happen in St. Elmo. It's just going to add a lot of attractiveness that is going to really animate downtown St. Elmo to be the place to come in our city."
Ben Berry, president of Berry Engineers, said the project would be built in phases, with the SunTrust parcel razed first and including a multi-level, 240-space parking garage. He said the buildout of the whole development could take about five years.
About 65 people showed up to a community meeting in the St. Elmo neighborhood in May wanting answers about parking, traffic congestion and other issues.
No one spoke out against the development at the planning commission meeting, but planning staff said some people did send emails before the meeting in opposition.
Planning agency staff had recommended the commissioners approve the rezoning with six conditions, including the developer limiting the building height to three stories instead of four.
Commissioner Jason Farmer said he was against adding the conditions on top of the UGC zoning. Berry said he felt some of the conditions were unnecessary because of the UGC zoning, as well.
UGC zoning allows for a maximum of four stories and multi-family residential units.
"We have UGC, it's here, it's a tool we have, and it seems like we are using these to change UGC into something it is not," Farmer said.
Planning commissioners approved to recommend the rezoning with only two conditions, including prohibiting auto-oriented uses, wholesaling with accessory warehousing, adult-oriented establishments and self-storage facilities; and requiring that the existing unopened right-of-way extending between two parcels be used for pedestrian connectivity between St. Elmo and Tennessee avenues.
Contact Allison Shirk Collins at email@example.com, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.