Kelly Martin said he can recall the days as a newly licensed driver in the late 1980s when he traveled down Gunbarrel Road on a scooter to buy fast food and watched people attempt to drive off-road on the land where Erlanger East now is located.
“The area behind the Applegate (subdivision) and Erlanger flooded,” he said. “People took their Jeeps and got stuck in the mud.”
Now, residential living has essentially disappeared from Gunbarrel between East Brainerd and Shallowford roads with the burgeoning commercial development in the area.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber-- Homeowner Bettye Hornsby has tried for six years to sell her house that borders the business district at Gunbarrel Road. Other houses on Applegate Lane have been sold as commercial properties.
Mr. Martin said he and some friends attended Hamilton Place mall’s opening in 1987 and were excited to be able to buy items locally instead of having to drive to Atlanta.
“It was novel to go for fast food and not having to go to Eastgate or Northgate,” Mr. Martin said.
Watching the conversion of Gunbarrel Road from rural residential to commercial since the late 1980s influenced his career, he said. Mr. Martin is a senior land use planner with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.
Bettye Hornsby has watched that conversion for the last 11 years as a resident of Applegate Lane, which she said is one of the last residential hold-outs on Gunbarrel. She is one of three homeowners who have their houses for sale on the cul-de-sac.
Applegate Lane, on the west side of Gunbarrel near East Brainerd Road, is composed of eight houses with a mixture of residences and offices. The city rezoned the street eight years ago for office use, she said.
Her street lost some of its privacy once an area next to Applegate was cleared off for a commercial project.
“It’s been kind of fun, really, to see the changes,” Ms. Hornsby said. “I think that our homes on Applegate are the prettiest in the area. But it’s only a matter of time till it’s all businesses.”
Rezoning efforts started in 1982 for Hamilton Place, said Barry Bennett, director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.
As late as the mid-1980s the county’s comprehensive land use plan didn’t call for any major commercial development in the Gunbarrel area, he said. But the mall’s construction led the way for commercial growth, Mr. Bennett said.
Any business that operates on Applegate must keep the residential feel of the house, said City Councilman Jack Benson, which should help protect the Concord Highlands subdivision which is behind Applegate.
City officials approved a land use plan around Hamilton Place in 2001 to control the mall corridor’s transition, said Mr. Benson, who is a planning commissioner as well as a councilman.
The section of Gunbarrel south of Igou Gap past Target was restricted mostly to zoning for future office and medical uses, he said. City officials eight years ago “held the line” against Applegate becoming commercial-retail, he said, and opted for office use.
“We have had smart growth along Gunbarrel and structured growth,” he said. “It’s been done in a way that protects the western neighborhoods. I think there’s no question it’s probably the most attractive commercial corridor in our area.”