700 Riverfront Residential Units Planned On Chattanooga’s North Shore

A Nashville developer is eyeing the site of a fuel farm on Chattanooga’s North Shore as the location for more than 700 new riverfront residential units off Manufacturers Road. Beacon Cos. is seeking to rezone a 10.5-acre tract at 706 and 710 Manufacturers Road, where the Amoco Petroleum Products facility now sits, according to an application to the city. The company would take down the storage tanks and remake the tract for apartments and potentially hotel units in the biggest-ever such project on the North Shore, plans show. The company earlier this year won approval to rezone an adjacent 7-acre vacant parcel, where Beacon had proposed 350 new apartments in a $90 million project.

The newest proposal, if OK’d by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission in October, could mean about 1,000 new residential units if Beacon builds all the development it has planned on Manufacturers Road. Chris Rudd, the Beacon Cos.’ chief executive, did not return phone calls Wednesday. But he said earlier this year by phone that he likes the North Shore and the access to the Tennessee River. The property looks across the river to Ross’s Landing and the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee headquarters atop Cameron Hill.

“You’ve got a great view of the waterfront and downtown Chattanooga,” Rudd said. Beacon’s proposal at the fuel farm parcel also calls for 52,000 square feet of retail space and putting in 1,342 parking spaces, including three garages, a site plan shows. In addition, the plan includes a marina, outdoor dining, a village green and “amenity courtyard.” Rudd earlier had cited the planned extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk, which the city could run across the property. “It’s a short walk to all the amenities on the North Shore,” he said.

The Beacon project continues the recent trend of developers who are recrafting prime Chattanooga riverfront factory sites to hold new housing. Nearly 1,800 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums or apartments in about a half dozen projects already are on the drawing board, not including Beacon’s latest proposal. All the projects are in the downtown area or within a few miles of it along the river.

Matt McGauley, CEO of Chattanooga-based real estate business FTC Development, said by phone that he’s not surprised by Beacon’s plans and those of others who want to reuse what has been riverfront manufacturing sites for decades. “A lot of needs today by manufacturers are different now than decades ago when plants were initially built on the river,” he said. “A lot of riverfront property’s highest and best use isn’t a propane tank storage facility. It could be done elsewhere.” David DeVaney, CEO of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp., said the riverfront is “a great amenity,” and he particularly cited the Riverwalk. “Pedestrian pathways and the river — it’s a natural progress of development,” he said in a phone interview about proposed new housing. The Regional Planning Agency staff, which has balked in the past at recommending approval for new housing in traditional manufacturing areas, earlier this year made note of the city’s need for more residences.

The staff, in Beacon’s earlier rezoning proposal, said that “with the existence of vacant and underutilized industrial properties south on Manufacturers Road, it is appropriate to introduce mixed-use residential and commercial development.” DeVaney said he’s not concerned about old manufacturing sites replaced by residential. “To me, it’s kind of exciting,” he said. But he added that it’s key to not forget about the strength of manufacturing in the Chattanooga area. DeVaney lauded the county’s purchase last year of McDonald Farm in Sale Creek. The county paid $16 million to the McDonald family and is prepping for the farm’s redevelopment. DeVaney said he doesn’t believe the city is overbuilding in terms of apartments.”We’ve got a lot of bandwidth before we reach saturation,” he said. “We’ve got a quality of life in Chattanooga that is superior. Our story is getting out there and attracting people.”

McGauley, too, said Chattanooga’s population is growing. “Chattanooga is a place where a lot of people want to be right now,” he said. “People want to live in dense and energetic places and be surrounded by walk-about beauty.” McGauley said the city needs to work with manufacturers and help them provide a clean base for the future. At the same time, he said, the city needs to ensure it’s acting as good stewards of the riverfront parcels and keeping the community in mind. “These types of developments are generational,” McGauley said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com