Chattanooga and Hamilton County partner for Westside development project

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The Bend (aerial view) is 120 acres of redevelopment led by Urban Story Ventures, a local commercial real estate company, that will be designed to feature new public parks and green spaces, as well as new commercial, entertainment, and residential options.
Jermaine Freeman, a senior economic development advisor for the city of Chattanooga (at podium) discusses a new partnership between the city and Hamilton County that will revitalize 300 acres on Chattanooga’s Westside. Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly is seen on the far left.

(CNC Compiled) The City of Chattanooga will partner with Hamilton County to revitalize the Westside area on the riverfront with two development projects.

A historic agreement unveiled last Friday will revitalize 300 acres of downtown riverfront adjacent to Chattanooga’s core, expand downtown education opportunities, create additional affordable housing for more than 2,000 residents of Chattanooga’s Westside, and enhance public infrastructure along 3,000 linear feet of the Tennessee River.

Westside Evolves is a $1 billion effort that will build new affordable housing to replace obsolete housing units one-for-one, while also building a mix of new housing types to spark new vibrancy, commercial activity and economic opportunity across the Chattanooga Housing Authority’s 115-acre footprint. The plan was developed with input from 82 percent of Westside’s more than 2,000 residents. 

Jermaine Freeman, a senior economic development advisor for Chattanooga, said, “My theory as an economic developer is that you can’t have too much economic development.”

Beyond the direct public benefits, the One Westside plan envisions more than 1 million square feet of commercial space, thousands of new homes, and 14 acres of new green space, including 9 acres for a new Riverfront park on what is now known as the Bend. Of the new homes, at least 10 percent of all rental units in the Bend footprint will be reserved for residents making 80 percent or less of the area median income.

Through Urban Story Ventures’ private development of the under-utilized industrial site formerly occupied by Combustion Engineering, Alstom and GE, the new Tax increment financing (TIF)  district and Westside Evolves are expected to conservatively unlock a minimum of $800 million in new development over the next 10 years, which will support the construction of public infrastructure, educational opportunities, and new affordable housing.

A new project will create downtown education opportunities, affordable housing, and new green spaces as part of the development of 1 million square feet of commercial space and thousands of new homes.

“This agreement represents a new approach to economic development in which the priorities of the citizens of Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga are aligned closely with the developers,” said Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp. “Jimmy White and his team at Urban Story Ventures are visionaries who care deeply about our community, and I’m grateful they understand the importance of public education to the future of our local economy.”

TIF is a common funding tool used by cities and counties to revitalize blighted and under-utilized properties. As the improvement and development of these blighted properties increases their taxable value, local government sets aside a portion of the increase in property taxes to help fund public improvements in the area, improvements that also further catalyze the development.

TIFs are enacted for a limited number of years, in this case 20 years per parcel. During this time, all existing property taxes will continue to be collected as usual. Of the new revenue collected as a result of new development, every dollar allocated to Hamilton County for school operations will still be collected. Only a portion of new revenues paid by property owners are set aside to help fund approved projects. After the TIF expires, all existing and all new tax revenues are collected and distributed as usual.

“For nearly a year, we’ve worked alongside Mayor Wamp and Urban Story Ventures to get the best possible deal for the residents of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, while ensuring that this transformative development will be something that will make us all proud. This plan is the culmination of that robust, collaborative and candid process,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “This trajectory-altering approach will provide a long-term lift to every resident’s quality of life and will go the distance toward addressing our residents’ housing, education and employment needs for decades to come. This project essentially adds a whole new neighborhood to Chattanooga, and transforms another, so it’s not a stretch to call this a generational opportunity.”

All funding that would normally be set aside for public schools will be protected. As part of this TIF structure, additional funding from the new revenues will be set aside to create new downtown education opportunities, through a partnership between Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, and Hamilton County Department of Education.  

“We are grateful for the support the City, County and Bend are offering in allocating TIF proceeds to the transformation of the Westside,” said Betsy McCright, executive director of the Chattanooga Housing Authority. “Working together, we will be able to make transformative change and in many instances, end generational poverty. The return on investment of these dollars will resonate for generations.”

The new One Westside partnership, which includes the City of Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Hamilton County Schools, Chattanooga Housing Authority, and Urban Story Ventures, will leverage TIF to create and capture new tax revenue emerging from the redevelopment of brownfields to fuel public services, infrastructure, education, and affordable housing.

“This community-focused partnership will allow us to revitalize the Westside–an area once known as an epicenter for business and prosperity,” said Jimmy White, president and general partner of Urban Story Ventures. “Without the TIF, this transformation would not be possible. It’s key to building out the substantial public infrastructure needed to support these 120 acres while simultaneously supporting affordable housing, education, and community services.”

The proposed agreement will be reviewed for completion by Chattanooga’s Industrial Development Board at its next public meeting. It will then be referred to the City Council and County Commission for a resolution of intent at their public meetings.  Visit OneWestside.infoOneWestside.info for more information and updates as the project progresses.