​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.