Chattanooga City Council approves tax break to save Jaycee Tower

 

Jaycee Tower, located at 500 W. M.L. King Blvd.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The Chattanooga City Council has approved a 41-year tax break for a developer to completely overhaul one of the Jaycee Towers and keep its doors open for the low-income seniors who live there.

Jaycee Future Corporation, the nonprofit organization that built the towers in 1970, can no longer make ends meet for this particular building, board member Doug Chinery said. Two weeks ago he told council members the agency had tried unsuccessfully for years to find a buyer to revamp the property at 500 W. M.L. King Blvd.

Officials with Wishrock Housing Partners & Investment Group of Portland, Maine, said they can only take on the project with a long-term tax break.

In a recent meeting attended by more than a dozen Jaycee Towers residents, the council voted 7-0 for a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that calls for the Chattanooga Housing Authority to take ownership of the 46-year-old property and lease it to the developer. Council members Carol Berz and Larry Grohn were absent.

Councilman Chris Anderson, who is chairman of the council’s Economic and Community Development Committee, praised input from citizens, city administrators, the developer and his colleagues for making a “better PILOT process and better PILOT application.”

Before the vote, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed a few tweaks to the agreement made at council members’ requests, including a clause calling for mandatory adjustment of the agreement’s terms if the developer fails to live up to its promise to provide good and affordable housing for seniors.

Councilman Chip Henderson admitted he had wrestled with the situation.

“This is a project that has kept me up at night,” Henderson said. “I don’t feel good about a PILOT this council — with the possible exception of Councilman Anderson — won’t even see the end of, but I don’t feel good about turning out all the residents we have here this afternoon.”

Chinery said that, without the tax break, the tower’s residents would likely be put on the street in a couple of months.

Wishrock developer Penn Lindsay told council members his company would make a “full and substantial renovation,” including replacing the roof, extensively remodeling all residential units and improving common areas.

“We aren’t afraid to tackle the most challenging of properties,” he said.

Wishrock will reduce Jaycee Towers’ 190 apartments to 175 by combining some smaller units to make larger ones.

The renovated tower will offer 78 efficiencies, 67 one- bedroom units and 30 one-bedroom-and den combos.

Rents will range between $695 and $880, including utilities, according to the developer.

Lindsay said most of the current residents put 30 percent of their total incomes into rent, with governmental assistance making up the difference.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.