Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 23, 2021

Townhomes move to rural setting

New Soddy development a ‘serene’ option 16 miles from downtown

Jennifer Lively remembers when the sign welcoming people to Soddy-Daisy proclaimed the town was home to just 5,000-plus residents.

Lively, who at the time was a young girl growing up in Soddy, says she loved seeing someone paint over the previous tally with a bigger number.

“When it reached 7,000, I told my Papaw, ‘More people are moving to Soddy!’” she recalls. “I thought that was neat.”

Although the fabled sign is long gone, Lively, who’s now 47, estimates about 15,000 people live in Soddy today following decades of steady growth in Hamilton County. As a residential Realtor with Keller Williams Greater Downtown Realty, she even helped some of them move there.

While this would have thrilled Lively’s younger self, her frustration with the meager number of houses currently available for sale locally recently tempered her excitement about more and more people wanting to make Soddy their home.

“I have 13 buyers right now – all of whom also need to sell – but they’re afraid to list because there’s nowhere for them to go,” she grumbles.

That said, a new project in Soddy has reawakened the enthusiasm Lively felt as a child when she saw people had moved to the small town – Cape Townhomes by West Brow Development.

Although West Brow has only just begun construction, the crew at least has an unfettered view of Soddy Lake from their worksite. Eventually, Lively hopes, the residents in 33 units will be afforded the same scene from their elegant townhomes.

Renderings and blueprints do appear to support Lively’s claim that the community will offer refined living within a small-town setting.

Although Cape Townhomes is located less than 1 mile from US 27, the owners at West Brow Development drew inspiration from the classic farmhouse aesthetic, which matches the outer reaches of Soddy, where the city gives way to open fields, long roads and older homes.

Like more than a few of those rural dwellings, each townhome will feature shiplap walls, exposed beams and hardwood floors, as well as a working fireplace.

West Brow then added a modern twist to its rustic slant with granite countertops, vaulted ceilings and high-end appliances, all contained within an open floorplan. A two-car garage will provide a buffer between residents, while the backdoor will open to varying lengths of grass belonging to the owner.

Outside, illuminated sidewalks will take residents to one of two pavilions, each of which will offer a view of the lake and the mountains beyond it.

As the main listing agent on the project, Lively doesn’t even try to contain her enthusiasm.

“It’s going to be the most serene, peaceful place to live,” she raves.

Despite the idyllic setting – which Lively insists makes the development a no-brainer – a similar effort to build Soddy’s first townhomes on the three-acre plot failed about a decade ago.

Lively learned about the original project much like she discovered each bump in Soddy’s population: From reading a sign.

“I remember seeing a sign announcing that townhomes were being built there,” Lively says. “I thought it would be the nicest place in Soddy to have a community like that. The land is gorgeous.”

Before the sign was planted, a small inn owned by Soddy businessman Andre Newman occupied the property. As Lively tells the story, Newman razed the structure and rezoned the property when someone offered to purchase it and build a small townhome community.

Unfortunately, the individual who proposed the project lacked the funds to purchase the property, and in fact had perpetrated questionable real estate deals across the country, Lively says.

Disheartened, Newman dropped the project and let the property sit unoccupied for a decade.

Then came the day Lively was showing Matt Schaller of West Brow a house, and the developer asked her if she knew of any properties in the Greater Chattanooga area that would be suitable for townhomes.

Lively says she perked up and exclaimed, “Actually, I do.”

Schaller says West Brow, which has developed several commercial projects in the Chattanooga area, has been interested in building townhomes and searching for the right location “for a while.”

“Townhome living has become popular over the past five years and attractive to a diverse market of buyers,” he says by email. “This type of development can provide a luxurious community with low maintenance living, yet still be affordable to buyers.”

Although Lively knows Newman personally, she called the listing agent on the original project – Carol Craig of Keller Williams Realty on East Brainerd – and asked her if he would be interested in selling the property.

Long story short, he was, Lively says, and she and Craig hammered out the deal, which included the sale of the land for $700,000.

“This has been a dream of Andre’s for a long time, but he thought no one would ever do it,” Lively notes. “I’ve tried to convince other developers to build townhomes there, but no one would.”

Lively didn’t understand the reluctance, as she says Soddy is a great place to own a home – or townhome.

“Soddy is one of the most sought-after areas right now because of its close-knit community, the scenery and the low crime rate,” she says as she throws on her marketing hat. “It also has amazing schools. The schools were one of the reasons I lived in Soddy the entire time my son was growing up.”

Lively also trumpets Soddy’s low taxes and home insurance rates, the latter of which she credits to the local fire department’s high rating.

Her zeal for Soddy notwithstanding, Lively says the townhomes and their immediate surroundings have enough of their own appeal to attract buyers.

“We looked at how the world has changed since last year, and we included a home office, natural light and community areas,” she points out. “If you’re working and want to take a break, you can walk to the lake.”

The units in Cape Townhomes will start at around $300,000, which Lively says is appropriate for the Soddy market. On the day she’s discussing the project, listings in the city range from $145,000 to just over $1 million.

“There’s a wide range of housing in the city, but the townhouses are going to add something new to the community,” she points out.

Buyers are responding, Lively says, and have expressed interest in 15 of the units. She recommends interested parties stake their claim now, not just to beat the rush but also to allow the builders to install desired upgrades.

“You can upgrade the flooring, cabinetry and floors. You could also finish the bonus room over the garage,” Lively suggests. “Our smallest unit is 1,335 square feet on the main floor and 625 square feet upstairs – not including the bonus room. You could have a 3,000 square-foot townhouse if you wanted to.”

Lively says it will take West Brow about six months to complete each of the eight buildings that will make up Cape Townhomes. Seven of the structures will contain four units each, while the eighth building will be comprised of five units.

By the end of construction, the developer expects to spend just under $10 million on the project, Schaller states.

Although rising construction costs related to escalating prices for lumber and other building materials could bump up that number, Schaller says West Brow is prepared to overcome these challenges.

“We secured material orders early and in bulk, and were creative in our design to be as efficient as possible with the materials.”

Schaller and the rest of the West Brow team has enough confidence in Soddy that they have made an offer on a second, undisclosed location in the city where they intend to build 80 to 100 houses, which would help to ease the area’s inventory woes.

But for now, Lively is focused on Cape Townhomes, which she says is the talk of Soddy.

“People I know from my son’s schools, or who know my parents, are calling and saying, ‘I’m looking at your sign.’ The commissioners and the mayor are excited, too.

“Bringing this beautiful community to the city where I have spent much of my life meanings a lot to me. I can’t wait to start selling townhomes.”