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Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press The Lupton Group is developing a 135-acre plot near the 9400 block of Lee Highway in Ooltewah.

A rectangular patch of land previously reserved as a natural buffer for Chattanooga's prestigious Honors golf course is transforming into one of the area's most exclusive developments, officials say.

A group originally established by Jack Lupton, Honors Course founder and Coca-Cola bottler, has cemented plans to build a 135-acre project in Ooltewah.

Called Cambridge Square and located just west of the golf course, it will be one of the largest developments ever built in Ooltewah and could be valued at more than $100 million when complete. Work is projected to take nearly a decade to finish.

"Ooltewah needs a town center, and this is hopefully the nucleus of what will grow up to be a town square like you'd find in a traditional Southern community," said architect Terry Barker, who is helping to design the development.

The land was originally acquired, along with another tract on the golf course's east side, to serve as a natural barrier that could preserve the area's beauty, officials say. Some of that barrier will be retained under the plan, they say.

The luxury community will incorporate a 12-acre conservation easement between it and the golf course, said David Belitz, chief financial officer of The Lupton Co. The development must "promote the design of the Honors Course and protect its integrity," Belitz said.

Though it was established to complement the course, Cambridge Square will not be directly associated with nor connected to the nationally recognized Honors Course. Instead, its design is an effort to strike a balance between developing the wooded area and protecting the golf course's aesthetics.

"As development continues in this area, we have a chance to set the tone," Belitz said.

First phase by 2013

Utility work for the first phase should be done by summer, and the 19-acre commercial portion likely will be finished by the summer of 2013, said Project Director Barry Payne.

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Ooltewah development

Planners are still hammering out some details, but current drawings call for 10 office buildings, four retail structures, four buildings for mixed use and two restaurants.

However, much depends on the willingness of tenants to move in.

"We won't sacrifice quality for speed. We'd rather do it right and have something to be proud of when we're finished," Payne said.

The total project cost will run well into the "tens of millions," he said, with the commercial phase to cost a little more than $10 million, he said.

About one-fifth of Cambridge Square will be developed for commercial use, but the vast majority will include a mix of townhomes, single-family homes and carriage homes, he said.

"We're going to try to be flexible in terms of the market," Payne said.

Work on the first residential phase will begin in earnest as the commercial phase draws to a close, he said.

Though the completion date is too far off to estimate what the 2,000- to 4,500-square-foot residences could cost, he said, they will be "high-end, high-amenity" homes.

The first residential phase will include about 20 single-family homes, 60 carriage homes and seven townhomes, numbers that could triple if developers decide demand is sufficient to fill the former neutral zone between the Honors Course and hubbub of Ooltewah, Payne said.

By conducting the development and construction in-house, the Lupton Co. will ensure that there is no effect on the golf course, Belitz said.

"We've got a pretty big legacy to live up to," he added.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at or 423-757-6315.