New Homes Rising Atop Aetna Mountain After Completion Of River Gorge Drive

  • Thursday, October 13, 2022

New homes are rising at what Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said will be one of Tennessee's largest mountaintop communities.


Developer Gary Chazen at Black Creek in Lookout Valley said some 1,200 homes will eventually be built atop spacious Aetna Mountain that has long been the backdrop to the scenic Black Creek golf course and homes.


Local leaders gathered on Thursday to celebrate the newly-opened River Gorge Drive – an innovative modern mountain road – and to share plans for future development of Black Creek.


The first phase of mountaintop development, known as "The Pass," is currently under construction and will include 200+ new homes.

Later phases of mountaintop development will include over a thousand more homes, a small commercial village, an inn, a medical office, a fire hall and community amenities.


Black Creek’s mountaintop developments are within Chattanooga city limits and are already contributing new tax revenue for public benefit, including Hamilton County Schools. The group also owns land in Marion County, but the development will be in the Hamilton County portion.


River Gorge Drive has already added more than $70 million in appraised value – an amount expected to grow significantly in the coming years when 1,000+ more units will be added to the tax rolls, officials said.


"The opening of River Gorge Drive will bring a whole new Chattanooga community to life on Aetna Mountain, adding new homes, residents, jobs, and tax revenue within our city limits while preserving the stunning natural beauty of the area," said Mayor Kelly. "Black Creek is a model for blending new development with natural conservation, and I'm excited to see Aetna Mountain grow and thrive in the coming years, for the benefit of all Chattanoogans."


“We are excited to share our vision for the future of Black Creek because all Chattanoogans will benefit from future development through increased tax revenue, economic activity, public access, and natural land preservation,” said Andy Stone, managing partner at Black Creek. "The potential for growth in West Chattanooga is enormous, and we are grateful to have the opportunity to have such a positive impact on our community.”


Recently, Black Creek donated approximately 300 acres to the Tennessee River Gorge Trust for a new multipurpose public trail network to permanently preserve portions of the mountain for public outdoor recreational use. There will be a trailhead for public access to the miles of trail. The trailhead is off of River Gorge Drive toward the top.


The newly-opened River Gorge Drive was described as a remarkable modern mountain road that required considerable innovation. It partially follows the old Civil War road up the mountain. Other portions of that road will be part of the walking trails.


Facts on River Gorge Drive: 


·        The first modern mountain road in the City of Chattanooga that meets all modern safety standards

·        The first Roller-Compacted Concrete (“RCC”) road on a mountain application. This will reduce maintenance and extend its lifespan.

·        The RCC was placed by a local company: Robert Smith Inc.

·        Road construction was completed by Brown Brothers Inc. of Chattanooga

·        Boulevard design is two roads in one: two lanes with 17 ft. of pavement each (5 ft. bike lane + 12 ft. vehicle lane) divided by a wide median to prevent lane crossover and provide additional green space

·        Breaks in the median every 1,000 ft for emergencies

·        Provides access for water, sewer, gas, and electricity (required a tremendous partnership between all municipal stakeholders)

·        10,000 ft. in total length from the start of boulevard design

·        1,200 ft. of elevation gain

·        Max slope of the road is 14.6%

·        80,000 sq. ft. of Soil Nail walls

·        Max rock cut: 38 ft.

·        60,000 cubic yards of rock excavated

·        300,000 cubic yards of earth moved


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