Group looks to invest in Lenoir City

Jeremy Nash

Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission last week approved the site plan for about 27 acres that will begin off McGhee Boulevard, wrap around the school and line Simpson Road. A site plan shows the apartments are called Highlands of Lenoir.

Realtor Julia Hurley, with Julia Hurley Group of Keller Williams Real Estate, said the property owned by Lenoir City Company of Virginia will transfer ownership to Chattanooga-based East Tennessee Investors Group LLC on Nov. 18. Hurley could not give the price.

“We’re going to have to do it in two phases because it’s a lot of work,” Hurley said. “... We’ve got a lot of easements and a lot of clearing to do, so two phases. (We) should start breaking ground next late spring, I would say May-June. We’re going to let it sit for the winter and then we’re going to break ground, so it’ll be a while. It’s going to be completely fenced in, a round-a-bout for the entrance, a gated community. It’s going to be great.”
Map Engineers owner Michael Price said he believed the project may actually take a little longer to begin, starting sometime in July or August. Price is also a member of East Tennessee Investors Group.
“We’ve got issues such as making certain that we’ve done our complete due diligence as far as all the market study and type of product that we’re looking at, getting all of our rents established, getting the determination that this is the correct ... mix in terms of the number of one-, two-, three-bedroom units that we want to do,” Price said. “Then getting the architect selected, getting the financing in place. So there’s a lot of steps to that take place between where we are today and breaking ground.”
Phase one will include 260-300 units, Price said. Hopes are to be complete by November 2018 and have residents moving in at that time or sooner. Phase two should follow about 12-18 months after, he said.
“It’s really going to depend on how easy it is to get the construction done on all the prep, all the prep work and site moving and all that,” Hurley said.
Price said the market will ultimately determine when phase two begins.
“We see a class A type-apartment development coming into the area,” Price said. “We see something that we think there’s sort of an un-met demand in the area and we think that we can meet that with our type of product that we’re proposing.”
Officials at first tried rezoning the property from R-2 to R-3 in order to meet the initial 550 units planned, but the planning commission denied the request in October. Although the project was approved last week, Commissioner Eddie Simpson said he still has some concerns with the amount of traffic that will follow putting that many apartments in the area, which may take a toll on the roads.
“Since it was zoned appropriate then we had no choice but to approve them,” Simpson said. “What we may have to do at some point is try to redesign some of that road up through there and try to see what we can do to accommodate a little bit more traffic, and my thoughts are too that we may even need to go to Rock Springs Road to try to make some improvements there to allow some of that traffic to disperse down in that direction at full development. ... Upgrade the roads around it to try to adapt to some of the additional traffic that might be on McGhee Boulevard, especially there at the intersection of Weigel’s.”
Despite that concern, Simpson said he believes the apartment complex will be good for Lenoir City.
Officials say amenities will include a clubhouse, swimming pool and a car wash. A buffer zone will be placed around the property.
“It’s the type of things that one would want to have as far as being able to leave their apartment and come down and enjoy the pool area but also be connected to the entire world basically if that’s what they want to do,” Price said.