​Housing Questions Dominate Village Update Meeting

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Residents attending the Dec. 4 Sewanee Village update meeting raised a number of questions regarding housing costs for buyers and renters, citing the need for affordability. Hosting the meeting, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor Frank Gladu stressed, “Developers won’t build new construction if they can’t rent or sell it.”
Referencing an earlier discussion, Sewanee resident Chris Colane said, “$250 per square foot is not affordable for staff and seminarians.”
Gladu agreed. “Two hundred and fifty dollars per square foot is probably not sellable.”
Noting the cost of rental units would be impacted by the same factors, Gladu said, “For developers to invest they must decide what investments will produce a return. They aren’t there yet. They’re still talking about site preparation.”
According to Gladu, a developer interested in the Prince Lane tract “wanted us to open up the land a little to get a better look at it.” Cottage court housing (800-1,200 sq. ft.) and multi-family homes (duplexes and fourplexes) are proposed for the site.
Vegetation thinning confirmed the site was low lying. “There’s no established stream flow,” Gladu said, but there appeared to be “random” stream activity.
Depot Branch and Rose Branch impact downtown, Gladu said. The University is conducting a study to determine how best to manage storm water.
The University has also retained Development Economist Randall Gross to access marketing conditions. “There won’t be more retail expansion until there are more people.” Gladu said citing Gross’s preliminary assessment, which included visitors. “We have to create a visitor place. But can our hiking trail network handle triple the volume?” Gladu speculated, citing an example of the complexity of increased tourism.
Asked if hotel rental was part of the Village Plan, Gladu said it had been discussed. “If we create a visitor destination, we’ll need a hotel. A compliment to the Sewanee Inn in downtown would facilitate tourism.” Several sites were under evaluation for the proposed senior living facility, Arcadia, Gladu noted, and the town planner had suggested the sites passed over for the Arcadia project might accommodate a hotel.
Gladu proposed a possible location pairing of Arcadia and the Senior Citizens’ Center when the present building is demolished.
He also suggested a possible site for the Sewanee Community Center between Angel Park and the American Legion Hall. “The community center board has been very proactive,” he said. “They’ve even discussed moving the building.”
Gladu gave updates on the major projects slated for completion by 2022.
From Kennerly Avenue to Kentucky Avenue where Highway 41A blossoms into multiple lanes will be reduced to two lanes with the goal of calming traffic by narrowing the highway. Gladu hopes to have a design plan from the Tennessee Department of Transportation in January.
Giving a timeline for completion of the new bookstore between the post office and Tower Community Bank, Gladu anticipates an architect being hired before the end of the year, with construction beginning in the summer, and the bookstore open for business by the fall of 2019.
A developer interested in constructing the grocery proposed for the corner of Hwy. 41A and Lake O’Donnell Road has hired an architect to assess the project, according to Gladu. The three-story structure planned for the site would have apartments on the top two levels.
The Village Green proposed for the location of the current market could not proceed until a new market was built, Gladu stressed. Funding of the project was part of the University’s capital campaign, Gladu said. Some donations had already been received.
The next Village Planning Update meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m., Jan. 2, at the Blue Chair Café and Tavern.

​County Commission Approves Development Grants

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Dec. 4 meeting the Franklin County Commission approved two resolutions from the Industrial Development Board to apply for grants funding site development projects in the Industrial Park, costing in excess of $800,000, with a 30 percent matching funds requirement from the county.
If the funds are received, the Tennessee Site Development Grants (SDG) will be used to create a construction-ready gravel pad on Site No. 9 on the Moon property, cost $500,000, and to build an access road on Site No. 16 on the same tract, cost $308,000.
Providing some background on the proposed projects, Industrial Development Board Director Gene Seaton explained last year’s SDG provide for a resistivity study on the property. “We knew there were karst features. We measured down 200 feet. All the property is suitable for industry.”
Seaton acknowledged there were sinkholes on the property, but said, “We can fix the sinkholes. It may not be expensive. We may be able to put rock from our quarry in them.”
Commissioner Dave Van Buskirk asked if the Industrial Board had any prospects interested in locating on the sites.
“We had some last year,” Seaton said. “A pad for a 100,000 square foot building is what clients are looking for.”
“Is our intention to build a building?” Van Buskirk asked.
“We’ve got to have something there for people to see,” Seaton said. “If nobody builds in one or two years, we may consider building a spec building.” Seaton noted Manchester and Lincoln County had followed this strategy to attract industry.
Van Buskirk asked if voting in favor of the resolutions committed the county to proceeding with the projects if the grants didn’t come through.
“No,” Seaton said. “Our goal is to continue development as cheaply as possible.”
Commissioner David Eldridge asked where the county’s match for the grants would come from if the projects moved forward.
“Our existing fund balance,” Seaton said.
The commission approved both resolutions.
The commission also approved a request from Solid Waste to apply for a grant to purchase a wood chipper, total cost $108,000, with a 33 percent local match required.
Following approval of the wood chipper grant, Solid Waste Director William Anderson presented a request to enter into a two-year contract with Heritage Environmental Services (HES).
Solid Waste would process wood waste from the Nissan Plant using the chipper, Anderson explained. HES would transport the wood waste to and from the processing site. “It could bring in $100,000 a year,” Anderson said.
The commission approved the contract with HES.
The commission also approved a request from the Franklin County Board of Education to enter into a lease purchase and maintenance agreement for 11 copiers.
The current copiers were not meeting the needs of the district, explained Director of Schools Stanley Bean.
Eldridge asked Bean about Rock Creek School being closed that day due to a water leak.
“The tile came down in four rooms, but we have good insurance with a $500 deductible. The insurance will take care of all of it. Students will be back in school tomorrow.”
The county commission meets next on Jan. 16.

​Old School Project Closer to Being ‘Source of Light’

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer
The renovation of the old Grundy County High School and planned rebirth as a center for community services is progressing after a long and winding road, with the next big step set for January.
The aim of the project’s steering committee is to see the building house an array of community services such as health and social services, workforce development, and classes from Chattanooga State Community College.
Part of the plan is to include “community health ambassadors,” who will greet people when they enter the “South Cumberland Learning and Development Center” and walk them where they need to go, whether that is back to college, a diabetes class, or to resources for caring for an elderly parent, said Emily Partin, the steering committee co-chair.
“Whatever it is that’s causing stress, whether it’s good stress or bad stress, that campus up there is going to be a source of light,” Partin said.
This year, construction workers finished the first phase of renovations on the 78-year-old building, which included a new roof, windows and outside doors.
The old library wing behind the main building has also been demolished and grass planted there.
With the assistance of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, the project has accrued a number of grants, and in January the bid process will begin for the next phase of renovations, which will include abatement of mildew, mold and some small areas of asbestos, Partin said. In addition, the overhaul will boast new HVAC units, lighting, painting, plumbing and electric.
If there is an acceptable bid, Partin said the committee hopes the facility will open by late summer or early fall 2018, prior to the beginning of Chattanooga State’s fall semester. She said the college would like to offer core college courses on the second floor.
With the Development District now focused on securing grants and managing the bid process, construction and engineering, the steering committee is focused on bringing agencies into the building, she said.
A number of agencies are interested, some even to the point of signing memorandums of understanding to lease space, Partin said. A sample of potential agencies stem from behavioral and other health-related fields, substance abuse and early home visiting programs and first aid.
Partin said organizers would like to see the building become a hub for nursing, social work and medical students to do rural rotations.
“Which would give them a better idea of what’s it’s like to work in a rural area and give us some needed health care,” she said.
The Grundy County Health Council will also have a presence there, Partin noted, adding that the state recently honored Tracy City as a “Healthier Tennessee Community.”
Tracy City Mayor Larry Phipps said officials are open to suggestions about what should go into the building.
“I think it will be a positive thing because there will be resources and training that aren’t available to the entire county unless you go off the mountain,” he said. “…It’s going to be a boon to the whole county.”
The Alma Mater Theater, which closed about two years ago, is also scheduled to re-open when the renovated building opens. Partin said the movie theater needed an upgrade to digital and someone donated a digital projector over the summer.
Another part of the campus project is to renovate the school’s gymnasium. Partin said organizers are finalizing funds for the gym before going out for bids on renovations, which will comprise a new HVAC system, lighting and windows.
There is a full basement in the gym that was once the school cafeteria, which will also be renovated, she added.
“Down the road we would like to put a kitchen back in and do some culinary training as part of the workforce development piece,” Partin said.
The old high school re-invention project has crawled along for many years. In 2006, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded a $500,000 grant to rehab the school with matching funds required of $100,000, but a series of delays and other obstacles hampered the project.
Some of those delays included changes in local government leadership, working to re-gain the original grant, securing donations and other grants, and construction bids that came in too high. Partin said the upcoming bid process set for January was also delayed after hurricanes in the U.S. drove up the price of construction.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted,” she said. “It’s a lot of hurry up and wait and I’ve learned over the years, patience. I’ve learned that while we’re waiting on this to happen, we can be doing this over here.”
Partin, who grew up in Tracy City and whose family has a rich history there, said she loves the area.
“It’s been my dream for a long time that the people on this mountain would have access to the resources they need,” she said. “If I can get a doctor in the area, whether its primary care or counselor or whomever, if they can say, ‘You go to the old high school.’ There’s not a soul on this mountain who won’t know where that is.”

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