JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A prominent multifamily residential developer has his sights set on 16 acres in north Johnson City for a 324-unit apartment complex, but will need the property rezoned first.

If Universal Development and Construction CEO Shane Abraham gets that rezoning, Johnson City Commissioners are scheduled for an initial vote on the request Thursday, and he said buildings could begin coming out of the ground by the second half of 2024.

A site plan for the Universal at Mountainview. The planned 324-apartment complex will only be possible if Johnson City Commission rezones the property to high-density residential. (Universal Development and Construction)

“We know the market need is there,” Abraham said of what is slated to be called Universal at Mountainview. “There’s certainly new folks moving into this area and most apartment communities are pretty tight in regard to vacancy, so we think that’s a perfect spot.”

The spot was slated for a 178-unit complex just a couple of years ago and is currently zoned RP-3 (planned residential). That was eventually scrapped despite Johnson City staff recommending approval and commissioners approving the rezoning.

The current request is to change that to high-density residential (R-5). The land abuts the 285-unit Haven at Knob Creek, which has 13 buildings on about 28 acres and is zoned RP-4. Not far away, The Reserve at Johnson City is zoned R-5 and features 250 apartments on 15 acres.

No one appeared at a neighborhood meeting about the rezoning request.

“It will consist of apartments, townhomes and some single-family homes that all utilize the same amenities, a clubhouse pool, fitness facility, bark park, just nice amenities that we put in most of our communities,” Abraham said.

A traffic study funded by UDC took into account pending major road improvements on both Knob Creek Road (including a bridge over the railroad where a one-lane tunnel chokes traffic) and Mountain View. Abraham said those should be wrapped up or well along when the apartments are completed, likely in 2025.

Mountain View and Knob Creek roads are visible at the right of this image, with the planned Universal at Mountainview development property in the center. The Haven at Knob Creek is in the foreground with North State of Franklin commercial development upper left. (Photo: WJHL)

“What the city has really wanted to see is these infill tracts that have the necessary infrastructure that are already sitting … in close proximity to major connectors major arteries, the interstate,” Abraham said. “That’s where this higher density belongs.”

The land is surrounded mostly by development, from apartment complexes to commercial, and is about two miles from Interstate 26.

Whether neighbors agree with Abraham, including those in large single-family residential developments uphill from the site, remains to be determined. The city staff has recommended approval, saying higher-density residential units “are appropriately located along major roads and near commercial centers.”

Abraham said the development would be similar to one Universal put behind the Johnson City Mall a few years ago, as well as one they are just finishing in Gray.

City planners estimated the built-out development would add 68 school-aged children and be served by Towne Acres Elementary and Liberty Bell Middle schools. Acceleration and deceleration lanes are recommended near the complex’s entrances to handle what is projected to be 2,152 daily traffic trips.