published Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

UTC expansion plans call for possible demolition of McKenzie Arena

Benjamin Sporer, of Minneapolis, design firm Perkins and Will discusses the master plan for the UTC campus during a community meeting at the Bessie Smith Hall.
Benjamin Sporer, of Minneapolis, design firm Perkins and Will discusses the master plan for the UTC campus during a community meeting at the Bessie Smith Hall.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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UTC unveiled three competing plans on Wednesday that could determine the shape of the university's expansion for years to come.

The planned push to 15,000 students from the current 11,450 will require thousands of beds, more parking and additional academic buildings, officials said Wednesday during a presentation of the plans at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

While details differ among drawings, the common thrust includes expanded housing along Vine Street to the northwest, new parking decks lining the perimeter of campus and an athletic district on the east side of Central Avenue.

All three plans call for the demolition or renovation of McKenzie Arena, depending on whether that area takes on a residential or athletic character.

The planned athletic expansion to the east could be a hurdle since it is separated from the main body of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga by several neighborhoods and what promises to be a very busy Central Avenue.

"I'm worried about the traffic, and there's so much traffic already," said student Rob Lamb.

KING Two-step

The north side of M.L. King Boulevard, long an underdeveloped part of Chattanooga's downtown core, could see mixed-use student housing under UTC's new master plan, but officials were quick to note that nothing was set in stone.

"We don't want people to worry that we're going to take your land, but we also don't want people to say, 'Yeah, they're going to buy my property,'" said Chuck Cantrell, assistant vice chancellor for university relations.

The M.L. King neighborhood has fallen behind in the developmental boom that began in the rest of the city core, but resident Moses Freeman, former head of the neighborhood association, said his members are open to change.

"If we could have mixed-use student housing, drug stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, that makes it attractive," he said.

Developers in the past have noted that negotiations to purchase property along the street often require buying at above-market values. Residents, in turn, have pushed for the city or a foundation to step in to pay the difference between the asking price and the market price.

But UTC has taken a softer approach with no concrete plans for construction south of the historic street, other than the River City Co.'s plans for area, said Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations at UTC.

Officials with River City, the downtown development company, have said they want to link the downtown area with the university, a plan that includes as-yet-unrealized ideas for more housing, retail and office space.

"As we move toward MLK, we'll bring housing and mixed-use space," said Brown. "But we don't think it's our role to provide all of the development in that area."

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Tim Barber This is a generic shot of the UTC campus for graphic.

plans aplenty

The University of Chattanooga Foundation now owns several parcels along M.L. King and, in 2009, had plans to purchase the stalled Renaissance Square condo/retail project for an expansion of the university's SimCenter.

But that deal was scuttled when private funds became unavailable to meet the now-defunct developer's asking price, according to a Times Free Press report.

That deal could be back on the table, at least in theory. One UTC master plan shows the area that includes Renaissance Square and the area north to McCallie Avenue as a possible academic research expansion.

"I would cross over MLK if the community wanted us to, but we're being reserved," Brown said.

Getting this far has taken eight months, and the final plan isn't expected to be ready before August 2012, according to Brown's timeline.

"These things work, they really do," he said of the planning process. "It's a high-energy time for a university that's growing, and for a university that listens to its neighbors."

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about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
memphisexile said...

So, all the MLK residents want is for the University to develop the area and pay them above market prices for dilapidated properties, all for the privilege of pruchasing property in a terrible neighborhood? It is not much of a surprise that nothing positive has happened in this area, because the residents apprently think that in exchange for any property they are owed a brand new neighborhood. News flash MLK residents, when you live in a terrible area you have done nothing to maintain, you do not get to make demands on others to fix what you won't. I expect UTC will look elsewhere, and leave these fools festering in their neighborhood complaining that no on will help them.

November 3, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
sbm362 said...

I totally agree with you.

November 3, 2011 at 10:59 a.m.
cheesy_rider said...

Glad to see more parking in the master plan, currently students have to drive round and round the parking lots and public streets to find an empty parking space, this makes traffic worse than it actually has to be.

November 3, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
educator2012 said...

This comment is for memphis exile. I am a resident of the MLKing Neighborhood and I have a few things that I need to address about your opinion. The MLKing neighborhood over the past 15 years has done a 360. When we moved here, drugs, violence, and prostitution were still going on but with the determination of neighbors working together and many partners, we are able to turn it around. Many houses have been and are still being built. Many revitalized houses; And a great spirit of community. We welcome UTC and there studnets of which includes myself. Most of them are great neighbors with a few knuckheads in between. UTC is a part of this neighborhood but they will not take over! Oh and one more thing....Next time try doing some research before making false statements such as those in your post. Much love and respect

November 3, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
memphisexile said...

I did not make any false statements. Read the article.

According to the article: MLK residents have demanded more than market value for those properties. They also demand that the city, ie the tax payers, make up the difference. The article states that your area has been left behind, that it has not been fixed up like other areas.

The head of your neighborhood association stated in the article that there would need to be further development of your neighborhood by others before the residents would be open to doing a deal.

You claim the neighborhood had turned around, but just 4 days ago there was a shooting in your neighborhood.

Maybe you personally see a revitalization, but I see old dilapidated property, shootings and residents of a bad area making demands for extra compensation because they know UTC wants to expand. I see your neighborhood association development head making demands. I see an area that needs to be left alone. I said nothing false. Look at the article.

I think UTC should expand elsewhere. There are other options, they do not need to deal with you or other MLK residents who want to extort money from UTC and the City for your land. Enjoy your neighborhood, I hope you continue to improve it, just without taxpayer dollars.

Much love and respect to you sir.

November 3, 2011 at 2:51 p.m.
ChipHerrell said...

Well isn't this just great! The only way I see for this to be ok would be for U.T.C. to replace it with an "arena"; or whatever you want to call it, with something bigger , better & ultra modern. This is the only venue we have for indoor activites like concerts, sporting events and the like. I'm sure to do this the UT "system would then be forced toraise tuition...again but bigtime this go around.

November 3, 2011 at 4:17 p.m.
bryseana said...

I will miss the arena. I have a lot of good memories there.

November 3, 2011 at 6:41 p.m.
ldurham said...

Tear it down! Get it right this time! For both concerts and ball games, there are 4,000 great seats, and 7,000 awful ones. Look at other arenas, and build it right this time.

November 3, 2011 at 7:38 p.m.
educator2012 said...

Once again memphis you are wrong but I will agree to disagree with you. Oh will you look at that. Just looked up the recent shootings and none in this neighborhood. Seems like youre making stuff up now... hmm... interesting. Our neighborhood is far from perfect we still have our issues but it is not what it used to be. Broke down buildings? yes we still have those. All work in progress. I do not want to exhort anything from UTC. Now you just sound delusional. Take a drive through and see for yourself before you make more delusional statements.

November 4, 2011 at 10:28 a.m.
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