Developers announce Walmart and Publix next to UT campus

Developers announce Walmart and Publix next to UT campus

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University Commons will cover more than 12 acres. (source: CHM, LLC) University Commons will cover more than 12 acres. (source: CHM, LLC)
Publix has committed to be part of the project. (source: CHM, LLC) Publix has committed to be part of the project. (source: CHM, LLC)
Walmart has also committed to University Commons. (source: CHM, LLC) Walmart has also committed to University Commons. (source: CHM, LLC)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A new retail development will bring a Publix and a Walmart to a site next to the University of Tennessee campus.

University Commons will cover more than 12 acres, with 211,000 square feet of retail space between Volunteer Boulevard and Alcoa Highway.

The developers, Knoxville-based CHM, LLC, say the complex will be vertical and built over covered parking. More than 40,000 square feet will be used by smaller retailers and service providers.

The complex will fill a grocery and retail void in the downtown area, including providing grocery/supermarket services in a federally designated "food desert," the developers say.

A food desert is considered a low-income census tract where many residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.

"Downtown residents, students on campus, residents from Alcoa Highway and other local neighborhoods, will all greatly benefit from the convenience University Commons will provide," said Mike McGuffin, a partner with CHM, LLC, in a press release.

The project is expected to make an economic impact of $226 million in Knoxville and create more than 1,700 jobs.

The complex will be built on the former Fulton Bellows site, which is classified as a brownfield site. That means its reuse may be complicated by a possible hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

Fulton Bellows was formerly home to a 450,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

"This project along with the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project will be great complements to each other," said Jim Harrison, a partner with CHM, LLC. "Together, these projects will make this semi-suburban area that is often used as a pass-through into a safe and attractive urban district for the community."

The developers say there are many hurdles involved in redeveloping this site, including getting the funding needed to complete the project.

"Because the current site is a brownfield, we will acquire some substantial expenses required to properly clean up the site, along with construction costs necessary to build this unique, vertical complex," said Harrison. "We will be seeking funding for the project through real estate and sales tax TIFs and through the New Markets Tax Credit Program."

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