By Haley Doss, Chattanooga, Tenn. —
As Douglas Heights, along with other new restaurants and shops, began flourishing in the ML King district, the students and administration project it will positively impact the university’s foot traffic and overall atmosphere.
River City Company and the private contractor for Douglas Heights are currently working on proposed plans for phase II and III of Douglas Heights which will be located on ML King Blvd.
Ann Yoachim, the university’s director of civil engagement, stated that River City, a private non-profit company, has been a major player in the development of downtown as a whole including the ML King district.
While she states that Douglas Heights is only one of the developments in the area, she hopes that students living in such close proximity to campus that it will benefit both student convenience as well as businesses in the area.
Matthew Hisscock, a junior and Exercise Science major from Franklin, Tenn., does not feel that the current Douglas Heights building has had an impact on ML King Blvd as of today, but can see it happening if the additions continue.
“If more businesses were added to the area, I think students would take advantage of it and that has the potential to be very successful, profitable and beneficial for students,” said Hisscock.
Since students living in Douglas Heights are so close to campus, Yoachim feels that it allows those students a better college experience and also promote a new feel to campus.
“The more students we have that live around campus and closer to campus, the better that is for university life,” said Yoachim.
Madison Luna, a junior and Special Education major from Memphis, is living in Douglas Heights this year. She said that she already sees more students on campus because of the large number that are now living in Douglas Heights in addition to on-campus housing.
Looking into the future of the possible buildings, she feels that the additions made to the ML King district, like shops, services and restaurants, will attract students.
“It will make more people want to live on campus or near it. People will be on campus even if they don’t live there,” Luna said.
Valara Sample, the Director of Housing and Residence Life, states that Douglas Heights has not currently impacted student housing numbers.
Enrollment numbers have recently increased and if they continue to rise, the university will need the housing space, according to Sample.
The on-campus housing can currently accommodate about 3,100 students, which leaves a need for off-campus housing, like Douglas Heights. The university currently has about 12,000 students, which means that an estimated 8,000 students need housing.
With plans for multiple Douglas Heights complexes and new services and shops in mind, Sample can see the ML King district becoming similar to Knoxville’s Cumberland Square. She feels that if the area flourished, it could be a place that would appeal to incoming students and help enrollment.
Sample is a strong advocate for on-campus housing and its benefits but she recognizes that complexes like Douglas Heights will change the culture and dynamic on campus.
“I have seen the fruit of their labor and I know the good that they can do,” said Sample. “It is definitely going to be a benefit to the university. Anytime you have students that live close to campus, those students are more likely to come and participate [on campus].”
As of today, the immediate impact on the University is unclear, but there is possible change to the university atmosphere as a whole. The plans for Phase II and III of Douglas Heights means more students living in close proximity to the University, allowing for more opportunity for a stronger student presence on campus and in the surrounding area.