published Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Longtime Chattanooga-area developer Julian Bell dead at 73

  • photo
    Julian Bell Jr., 73, co-owner of Bell Development, died Saturday at his home on Signal Mountain.
    Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Julian Bell, 73, a Chattanooga-area developer for more than 30 years, passed away Saturday at his home on Signal Mountain.

“Julian was an icon in the homebuilding business, a long-time member of the Home Builders Association, and contributed to the industry through the years,” said Dale Mabee, president of Cornerstone Construction and Cornerstone Realty. “He was always on the cutting edge, and very innovative.”

Bell’s passing “will be a great loss” for the city, said Teresa Groves, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga.

“Julian understood all types of the building industry, whether it was developing or building or whatever,” Groves said. “He had a tremendous knowledge of the building industry.”

Bell, who developed more than 4,000 lots in 28 communities over the course of his career, first moved to Chattanooga in 1966 while working for DuPont. He left DuPont in the early 1970s to take a position as assistant city engineer for Chattanooga, and later was director of the city’s Department of Public Works.

In 1975 Bell began Bell Engineering Co., a consulting firm that grew into Bell Development Co. Bell Development has been one of Chattanooga’s largest residential land development and home building firms since the 1980s.

“Bell’s success as a developer also had an impact on the local economy by creating jobs for area contractors, subcontractors and construction suppliers, Groves said.

Bell twice served as president of the Greater Chattanooga HBA, was named Developer of the Year in 1987 and 1992 and is currently listed as a “life director” for the organization.

Also known for his philanthropy, Bell gave to organizations such as local schools, the Boy Scouts and Bible in the Schools.

Bell was born in 1940 in Newport News, Va., and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1962 with a degree in civil engineering. He was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni at his alma mater in 2011 for his work with students, professors and the School of Engineering’s Land Development Design initiative.

Bell is survived by his wife, Carola; his three sons, Jay, Jon and Julian; and seven grandchildren.

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