122 apartments coming to Gatlinburg, developers aim to help curb lack of affordable housing options

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — For the first time in a long time, or ever, according to some, a major apartment complex is coming to Gatlinburg.

Developers and local leaders held a ground-breaking ceremony Thursday for the Mountain Brook Apartments.

Construction is set to begin in a few weeks and project leaders anticipate opening up the first of four buildings, and leading apartments, as soon as June.

Bob Bentz, a developer for the Mountain Brook Apartments project said in addition to the 122 units, the complex will include a swimming pool, gym, and a community facility.

Bentz explained the new apartments are not aimed to house people temporarily or seasonally. Instead, he said, they’re looking for people who live and work in the area, and agree to sign on long-term, at least a 12-month lease.

City of Gatlinburg leaders helped make Thursday’s celebration possible through a tax incentive, known as a PILOT, or Payment In Lieu Of Taxes.

Under the PILOT, developers will pay a property tax bill based on their properties’ current assessed value. That rate will be frozen for 20 years. On year 21, the developer will pay taxes to the city based on the properties’ new assessed value.

Bentz explained they will have to cap their rental rates between 80 – 100% of the median income.

According to a spokesperson for the city, that median income threshold is set by 2018 numbers from the federal government.

Bentz said their starting rental rate, of around $1,000 for a one-bedroom unit fits in the window. They will also offer two and three-bedroom options.

“Gatlinburg is your classic mountain resort town where you really have a lot of places for the tourists to live, but no place for the residents to live,” Bentz said.

The road to Thursday was long, in fact, it took more than two years for the pieces to come other, Bentz explained. Their team bought five separate lots to form one lot for the complex. As the finish line draws closer, he said he’s “super excited” about the upcoming construction.

Mark Adams, the President and CEO of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, says he’s also excited about the development sitting in walking distance to downtown, an elementary school, and a variety of restaurant options.

He explained efforts by city, county, and business leaders and the developers of the project as “everyone working together to help everyone.”

Bentz also sees their development as a win for business owners.

“People come here with the concept of opening up a business in Gatlinburg,” he said. “Then, they open the business, then they find they can’t find employees to work there. The reason why is, employees that are working here in Gatlinburg are typically living 30 minutes to an hour away.”

In fact, more than half of the people who work in Gatlinburg live outside the county.

“We’re in need of employee housing all across Sevier County, but especially Gatlinburg because of limited land availability here,” Adams said.

Because space is limited, and comes with a premium, in the city, Adams said this is a great way to use this space.

He believes this is the first complex of this type in the city, at least certainly in recent years, especially when you look at the amenities offered.

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