'Agrihood' Springbrook Farm will offer food-centric lifestyle in Alcoa

Alcoa’s planned mixed-use development Springbrook Farm is making progress.

The recent completion of Tesla Road is a major step forward for the project, which will begin construction of 60,000 square feet of retail in 2019.

The 360-acre project, which broke ground in April 2017, will include retail, multi-family and single family residential space, commercial space, assisted living facility, hotel space, conference center, greenspace, farmland and a city center.

Mikkel Anderson, executive vice president and founding member of RESIGHT Holdings, said he expects residential construction to begin next year as well.

The land, once the home of once the Alcoa, Inc. West Plant, is owned by Colorado-based RESIGHT, which primarily converts old industrial properties to new uses.

Springbrook will be an “agrihood” community, he said.

"In a somewhat thematic way, we're taking (the property) from farm to industry back to farm," Anderson said.

Agrihoods, or agricultural neighborhoods, are food-centric, outdoor-oriented communities, according to The Urban Land Institute, and often appeal to active, health-oriented families.

"We find a lot of people are less interested in yard maintenance and more interested in having a nice home on a low maintenance lot," Anderson said. 

The 15-acre professional farm will be accessible to the community. Anderson hopes residents will walk to the farm to buy seasonal produce and flowers. Local restaurateurs will use the fresh produce (and the farm may attract artisan chefs to set up shop at Springbrook), and Alcoa schools will be able to access the farm for education. There will also be room for a regional farmers market.

And Anderson said though the agrihood concept is not new, Springbrook is a variation on food-centric development concepts nationwide.

"To our knowledge there's very few circumstances where the intent is in a traditional suburb environment to have a food focus,” he said, adding most notable projects are urban.

RESIGHT recently sold a piece of property to Habitat for Humanity to construct low-income housing on the site.  

“I view this as farm-to-table for everybody as opposed to a playground for the rich," Anderson said. 

A 2015 Urban Land Institute survey indicated 73 percent of U.S. residents “consider access to fresh, healthy foods to be a high or top priority.”

A nearby example of an agrihood is Asheville’s Olivette, a 346-acre planned community and farm near the French Broad River. The community has a farm, riverfront beach, walking trails, geothermal heating and cooling, community gardens, a bike-sharing program and more.

“Developers are learning that incorporating opportunities to grow, purchase and consume food within the context of development projects can pay dividends,” according to the Urban Land Institute study.

Walkability is a staple of agrihoods – the development will have access to the greenbelt, and trails throughout.

Eventually the completion of the cloverleaf interchange at Hunt Road will connect the property to McGhee Tyson Airport.

Construction of the 60,000 square foot retail development should begin in the first quarter of 2019.

Shuler Properties, based in Atlanta, is developing the four-building commercial project, which will be built at the corner of Hall Road and Associates/Marconi Boulevard.

Knoxville-based Greenbrier Real Estate Advisors will be the leasing agent for the project, while NAI Koella | RM Moore is leading the brokerage effort for Springbrook Farm.

The project has already received interest from a senior living center, brand-name sit down restaurants and several hotel groups, said Maribel Koella, director of NAI Koella | RM Moore. A letter of intent from a major hotel brand is forthcoming, she said, and a grocery store tenant is in the purchasing process. 

“Alcoa is a flourishing community that is well-positioned to support new retail development,” Steve Shuler, CEO of Shuler Properties, said in a press release. “With great visibility from Hall Road and a location at the gateway to Alcoa and Maryville, we believe Springbrook Farm is the perfect spot to offer new shopping and dining options to the residents of Blount County.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Alcoa’s population has grown from about 8,449 in 2010 to 10,228 in 2017, a 17.4 percent increase.

Anderson estimated when the project is complete in eight to 10 years, it will have added 2,000-3,000 people to the community.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Brenna McDermott

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

Published October 5, 2018