Only those 55 and older can reside in The Village at Chickamauga. The 40-unit complex will soon add 60 apartments while just around the corner a similar property may soon be developed. (Messenger photo/Mike O'Neal)

Chickamauga's demographic might show a shift to seniors — those over the age of 55 — when results of Census 2020 are compiled.

The city, which for years has attracted young families due to its reputation for good schools, is quietly becoming a mecca for a graying population. And not just those retiring to their hometown or who have never left.

The Village at Chickamauga rarely has had vacancy since being built in 2008 and its developer, Jerry Braden, is in the process of adding a second phase that will add 60 units to the existing 40.

The city council, after an April 3 public hearing and during their monthly meeting, unanimously approved a rezoning request necessary for the projected expansion.

Braden said he relies on tax credits available for developing affordable senior housing. In the case of The Village at Chickamauga, he has said credits, not subsidies, allow rents charged those 55 and older to be as much as 75 percent below what "fair market" pricing would be in a major metro market like Chattanooga or Atlanta.

Application for the state and federal tax credits must be submitted before May 25.

Not only did the city council grant the rezoning request, they also adopted a resolution stating their support "senior house (age 55 and older) affordable to local citizens."

The complex in question is similar to about 40 others Braden has developed. All focus on older tenants who are independent but no longer want the burden of maintenance that comes with owning a home.

Aimed at meeting the needs of seniors, these apartments are designed to improve the safety and accessibility. There are no stairs to climb, hallways and doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers, bathrooms and kitchens are equipped with adaptive or modified fittings. Rather than childproofing, adapting to those wanting to "age in place" is the goal here.

More senior housing on the horizon

And Braden's expansion of The Village is not the only such plan for Chickamauga.

The city's planning commission on April 20 will hold a public hearing to review another developer's request to erect an 80-unit residential complex for seniors, Braxton Court, on General Bushrod Johnson Avenue near the Ace Hardware and Fred's Super Dollar.

Braxton Court would occupy an 8-acre site and offer two types of properties for those 55 and older, according to Denis Blackburne of the Woda Group.

Of 80 total units, 40 would be in a single two-story building equipped with an elevator while the other 40 units would be patio style home, grouped in quadruplexs.

The development would include a multipurpose space, fully equipped fitness and computer centers, facilities as well as organic gardens.

Braxton Court will be developed by The Woda Group Inc., a national leader in the development, construction and management of affordable housing and Parallel Housing Inc., a non-profit focusing on the development of sustainable and energy efficient affordable housing, said Blackburne who heads the Woda Group's office in Savannah.

The Woda Group is headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, while Parallel Housing is based out of Athens, Ga.

The development team will apply for affordable housing tax credits to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in the upcoming tax credit competitive application round, Blackburne said.

If awarded credits, Woda & Parallel would own and manage the property for at least the next 30 years, he said.

Projections are that the project will have total development costs of about $12.3 million which equates to more than $150,000 per unit. All units would feature quality construction and would be built to LEED criteria. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design resulting in reduced energy costs for the residents as well as being a very healthy environment to live in.

As proposed, Braxton Court would have 26 one-bedroom units and 54 two-bedroom units, with 5 percent being handicap accessible and 2 percent being equipped to sight and hearing impaired residents.

The patio homes would be grouped in clusters of four and six units with each unit having a garage.

The architectural style for all buildings would be coordinated with Chickamauga's planning commission.

Mike O'Neal is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga. He can be reached at the Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at moneal@npco.com.