A $150 million plan by the Chattanooga Red Wolves owner for hotels, apartments, condos, offices and other work around the team's new East Ridge soccer stadium is close to gaining a key state permit.
Utah developer Bob Martino, who opened the Red Wolves facility last year, could secure a wetlands permit as early as next month for the 100-acre site around the stadium at Interstate 75 and Interstate 24, according to a state official.
That would open the way for Martino and his Star Community Builders to move ahead on the project that includes two 188-room hotels, a 40,000-square-foot convention center, 400 apartments and condos, and restaurant, retail and office space.
Also included is a four-level, 1,200-space parking deck, police substation, a network of green spaces such as a "great lawn," a lake, pocket parks, greenways, and transportation and utility infrastructure, plans show.
Jeff Sikes of ASA Engineering, working with Martino on the permit, said in a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation hearing last week that the $150 million project would create 1,200 permanent and construction jobs.
"It would have a substantial economic impact for property values in the area," he said.
According to the plan, additional annual tax revenue is estimated to be $6 million to $7 million. The build-out of the proposed development is scheduled to be complete in three to five years, the plan said.
Chris Dorsey, East Ridge's city manager, said the city is looking at ways to provide better access into Martino's site, which now is by North Mack Smith Road across from Parkridge East Hospital off Spring Creek Road.
"We're working together with him," he said. "Hopefully, we'll know something within the next month or two. We're very excited."
* Two 5-story, 188-room hotels
* 40,000-square-foot convention center
* 400 apartments and condos
* 40,000-square-foot office complex
* Mixed-use complex
* 1,200-space parking garage
* 900 surface parking spaces
* Lake, walking trails
Source: Star Community Builders
Late last year, the East Ridge Industrial Development Board advertised a public meeting that would have involved talks about the use of incremental tax revenues from the area to potentially pay eligible project costs or debt service on bonds. That meeting was put off, however.
According to Martino's plan, vehicle and other access will be provided via a North Mack Smith Road connection that ultimately will offer a link between Spring Creek Road on the northwest side of the property and Ringgold Road on the south side.
Walking trails are to connect to the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway at Camp Jordan on the opposite side of I-75, the plan states.
Martino, who declined to comment for this story, had earlier put his plans at $125 million. But Sikes last week offered the higher number in the state hearing. Already, the project had been put at the largest-ever investment in East Ridge.
Sikes said that of the 100 acres, about 50 acres will be developed on the southern end of the parcel and the rest would be untouched.
The work will require substantial in-fill in those areas and a lake on the northern portion for stormwater, he said.
Mike Lee, of TDEC's division of water resources, said at the hearing that the permit would authorize alterations to the wetlands on the site.
"There are about 20 small wetlands out there," he said. "Some wetlands will be avoided and preserved and placed under land use restrictions, and these are more high-quality wetlands."
The plan said there would be impact to about 2.4 acres of wetlands.
Lee said there are two streams on the site that will be avoided by the development. The onsite population of the protected Florida hedge hyssop flowering plant is to be relocated to another location within the site, the plan said.
The plan said the development will result in improved drainage through the property which will reduce existing flooding issues in the adjoining Lansdell Park neighborhood. It said that Martino and Star Community Builders have purchased most of the duplexes that abut the property to the south.
The duplexes will serve as player housing or be developed in the future as townhomes or multi-family units exclusively for players.
"One of the goals of the project is to create a live-work-play development that is both indoor and outdoor amenities friendly," the plan said.
No one from the public spoke at the hearing about the project, but comments can be given in writing by May 6, according to TDEC.
In 2019, the East Ridge City Council voted for the Border Region Retail Development District state sales tax incentive for Martino's project.
That allowed the city to recapture the growth in sales tax collections within the zone and then plow those funds back into repaying investments in the area, including the $6 million, 5,500-seat stadium for the USL League One professional team.
The plan said the stadium can accommodate as many as 10,000 to 12,000 people during concerts or related events with the addition of seats on the field around a stage.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.
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