January 19th, 2016 | by Alex Green
Florida-based developer Integra Land Co. will start construction on 280 high-end apartments in the Hillocks Farm planned community in north Hixson this spring, company officials said Tuesday.
The Lake Mary, Fla.-based developer of multifamily housing will build and operate the new Hixson apartment complex, dubbed Integra Vistas. Integra Land Co. operates more than 20,000 units across the Southeast, including Integra Hills in Ooltewah.
The company will buy and develop property within the Hillocks Farm master planned community — a $100 million project, in total.
Integra Land Co. officials declined to say Tuesday how much they expect to invest in the apartments.
David McDaniel, principal at the company, said construction is likely to start by late spring this year, and the new units should be move-in ready by early 2017. It’s difficult to put a hard date on the completion of the project this early, he said.
“There’s some significant earth moving that we’re going to have to do,” he said. “We’ve been working on that for the last six months, trying to pin down the most cost-effective way to do it, that’s aesthetically pleasing. I think we’ve arrived at a nice combination between those factors that we had to deal with.”
McDaniel said the north Hixson location is “exceptional for the type of product that we’re going to build, having panoramic views on top of that hill.”
“And that location is in proximity to employment in both directions, so those are primary things that we look for,” he said.
The apartment complex will feature high-end units with granite countertops, vinyl plank floors and stainless-steel appliances.
The facility also will have an on-site pool, fitness center and clubhouse for residents. McDaniel said Integra Vistas will feature a new clubhouse design.
Integra Vistas will feature a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
Construction of the apartments is the first of many phases of development at Hillocks Farm, which is to eventually include 500,000 square feet of commercial space and 250,000 square feet of office space, as well as walking trails and outdoor amenities.
Duane Horton, Hillocks Farm developer, said Tuesday that, overall, the once-controversial planned community is on track, and commercial space could start going in by late next year. He said the Integra Vistas announcement was an exciting moment for the project.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
Horton worked for months with concerned residents and future neighbors of Hillocks Farm — previously known as Chattanooga Village — back when the project was going through city and planning approval. Road access from the property and its concern on existing roads was among top concerns for nearby residents, who formed a group called Don’t Chop the Hilltop.
The project was revised to its current form, a project that both sides agreed upon, and which city leaders approved early in 2014.
Now, “the No. 1 focus is getting the infrastructure started and getting the apartments going,” Horton said.
“We’re pretty much on the original plan,” he said Tuesday. “We had planned on doing apartments first, and then anticipate the retail will follow afterward and the corporate office will work in there over time.”
He said Integra Land Co.’s experience and success in the Chattanooga market made it a good candidate for the Hillocks Farm apartments.
“We like the quality of their products. We’ve enjoyed working with the owners, as well,” he said. “They came with a very good reputation from other contacts that we have, other relationships that we’ve had that have worked with them. So they came highly recommended even from within the Chattanooga community.”
He said progress on the 190-acre project has been a “very detailed process with many people involved, and it’s something that has to be held together over a long period of time.”
“It is a lot to coordinate, but we’re happy with the way the project is,” Horton said. “Overall, we’re close to being on the original schedule that we put forth.”
Ellie Wallis, a one-time active opponent of Horton’s project, heard the apartment phase was finally announced on Tuesday and said it was a good moment.
“I’m pleased that development is finally started,” she said. “It’s really nice that it’s moving forward, and it’s nice to be able to tell the neighbors something.”
Wallis said the waiting has been “kind of a challenge.”
“You kind of question yourself,” she said. “You kind of think, ‘Should I really have agreed to all this stuff?'”
But Wallis said she’s confident Horton will honor his agreement with residents in the area, and looks forward to having a coffee shop just around the corner from her house, if that’s the price to pay for losing a little peace and quiet in the area.
And ultimately, Wallis said she can’t be too down on the area’s growth.
“People find out Hixson is great, and they love it, too, and they want to share it,” she said.