Downtown growth sparks building boomlet in apartments - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Downtown growth sparks building boomlet in (more affordable) apartments

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- The ten-story midrise across from Downtown Chattanooga's YMCA is more than the former home of the Saint Barnabas Senior Living complex.

"It's got 112 units that were in desperate need of renovation," developer Bob McKenzie says.

Re-habbed and re-christened 'The 300', the first phase of a $2 million renovation could accept its first renters in November.

"We fully expect to have UTC students living here," McKenzie says. "We expect an older crowd to also live here. There's gonna be a lot of demand for people who want to live here at this price point."

Studios will lease for $575 monthly; one-bedroom units for $750.

Seth Bigham,18, may not have to commute to his internship with the Lamp Post Group from LaFayette, Georgia much longer.

"There is style downtown, but it's really, really expensive," he says. And the convenience spots downtown are really, really expensive."

"There's a lot of younger kids who really, really do want to rent," says Kim White, President of River City, a promoter of downtown redevelopment. "We're getting a number of new workers who want that convenience of walking to work, being able to get together or stay late easily, and the market's reacting."

McKenzie's sister project, Walnut Commons has broken ground for 100 apartments to rent for $850-$1500 monthly. The project also will have retail tenants.

The Mission on Main development will deliver another 48 apartments and shopping. It's slated to open next year.

River City would prefer that developers rehab older buildings first.

It's persuaded Chattanooga and Hamilton County to expand/revive a PILOT (payments-in-lieu of taxes) program to offer developers incentives to do so.

Upscale developer John Wise' Stadium project would fit that criteria. His $4.5 million proposal calls for a brewery-restaurant and residential development on Chestnut Street, just south of Finley Stadium.

"We will have a two-level patio for the brewery, which will allow people to look over into the Stadium," architect Rick Lee tells Channel 3 via email. "The existing building will have a tasting room and 16 loft-style apartments with an atrium.

"The remainder of the project will include two new buildings which will house 48 apartments."

Expanding the project could hinge on whether Pilgrim's Pride Poultry agrees to sell additional parcels, and on whether Wise is able to establish a tenant base with no reservations about living near a chicken processing facility.

McKenzie believes that competition could saturate the market for apartments downtown, "but we're a number of years away from that point."

"Anytime you can be first in the market,though, you're gonna do well," he says.

Seth Bigham would like to keep his monthly outlay for rent to $450. 'Roommate' becomes the operative word.

"I think they (developers) need to move very quickly," he says. "Every second that's lost, you're losing some people."

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