7-story housing complex planned for Chattanooga’s M.L. King Boulevard area

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A Chattanooga private developer plans to build a seven-story student apartment building just off M.L. King Boulevard aimed at helping to alleviate UTC’s campus housing shortage.

It’s a move that could bring hundreds of students into a neighborhood where empty storefronts now dominate — and neighborhood leaders hope that influx will be a catalyst for M.L. King’s rebirth.

Local firm Riverside Development proposed the project, which will include two stories of parking and five stories of student housing at 930 Douglas St. The building should be open by August 2015, said Chris Curtis, president of Riverside Development.

“The main thing right now is that we’re in the very early stages,” he said.

He declined to say how many units the building will include, the apartment layout or the cost for

the project, and added that the company is still finalizing many of the building’s details.

But while the specifics of the building are still up in the air, one thing is for sure: The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga needs more student housing. The university is already sending 150 to 200 students to hotel rooms at the Chattanooga Choo Choo every year because campus housing is full, said Chuck Cantrell, UTC associate vice chancellor.

And that’s only expected to get worse.

The university needs about 600 new beds immediately and has a long-term need for as many as 1,500 new beds in the future, he said. And while UTC doesn’t have a role in the Riverside project, Cantrell said he’s happy to see private developers responding to the need.

“We’ve always felt that part of the mix needed to be private development in our community and around campus,” he said. “Anyone who can come in and provide high-quality, affordable housing that would appeal to our students and create a neighborhood around the campus, we’re very supportive.”