New Downtown Chattanooga Development Could Fill UTC's Need for Residence

A private group is working quietly with government agencies to assemble a large amount of brownfield property on 10th Street that could become a major component of UTC’s campus expansion, and will mark the farthest south the University’s footprint has ever extended.

Using the name 10th Street Rsd Llc, a private development group has purchased eight parcels of land south of M.L. King Boulevard, telling Tennessee Valley Authority officials that the nearly five acres will “serve the university,” said Jim Hopson, a communication consultant at TVA.

The land sits in an area near where UTC has sought to expand student housing, the demand for which has risen each year. The UTC master plan calls for an additional 1,200 beds of student housing over the next 10 years to meet projected student enrollment.

Hopson was among a number of TVA officials presiding at a land auction Monday that was slated to start at 1 p.m., but was delayed before it began as the federal agency haggled with the developers — led by Chris Curtis of Riverside Development — behind closed doors.

After nearly two hours of private negotiations prior to the public bidding process, Curtis placed a $1 million bid for TVA’s 30,000-square-foot downtown garage, which sits on about 2.48 acres south of M.L. King Blvd. His was the only bid.

Curtis declined to comment on the purchase, saying he was “not ready” to talk about his plans yet. And though all bidders were required to provide TVA with a development and cleanup plan for the property, TVA declined to provide the documents, citing “sensetive business with the winning bidder.”

But it’s not a done deal just yet. The property, which for years has been used for vehicle storage and repair, is heavily polluted by arsenic and other chemicals at levels that exceed so-called “risk-based concentrations for residential land use,” and the groundwater is unsuitable for drinking, TVA wrote in a public notice.

The sites have been used at one time or another to service vehicles for several companies, including Greyhound, TVA and the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Shannon Ashford, a communications officer for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said the site had been impacted by foundry sand and leaking underground petroleum tanks.

“Once redevelopment plans have been finalized, the division of remediation will work with the voluntary party to redevelop the site in a manner that will be protective for the intended use,” Ashford wrote. “At this point, we do not have specific details regarding the planned future use, as the process is still in the early stages.”

However early the stage may be, TDEC has previously posted a public notice on Sept. 28 that claimed the developer planned to “use the subject property for commercial and/or residential construction purposes,” and that Curtis — referred to as the “voluntary party” — had entered into an agreement with the state agency not to install ground wells onsite.

The Brownfield program allows property owners deemed “innocent,” and not responsible for the pollution on site, to work with TDEC to fix only the problems that are necessary, given a particular use for the site. In this case, Riverside Development has agreed not to disturb the polluted soil, unless it’s done in a specific way that addresses environmental conditions, as supervised by TDEC.

TVA, for its part, will move its fleet operations to the Chickamauga Dam area, where it maintains other operations and will expand an existing garage to fit the vehicles that will be moved from downtown, TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said.