Construction is expected to begin this spring on Universal at Thompson Creek, a 309-unit, upscale apartment complex on Thompson Creek Road, and the $25 million build-out on approximately 18.5 acres will take approximately two years, developers announced this morning.

Johnson City developers Shane Abraham and Mitch Cox initially planned to build a similarly sized apartment complex across Highway 25-E from Walters State Community College, but that proposal went away when the Tennessee Department of Transportation disallowed a curb cut that would have allowed motorists to turn directly into the southbound lanes of the highway.

Abraham says anticipated job growth is the biggest reason that he and Cox chose to build in Morristown.

“We’re very committed,” said Abraham, who told Morristown Regional Planning Commission members Tuesday that he plans to close on the property in about 45 days.

“Barring anything major catastrophe-wise, I think we will be in good shape.”

Site preparation for Universal will take about six months. When construction begins by the company’s in-house builders, the premarketing effort will commence. If early sales are as successful as they have been in Sevierville, Kingsport, Johnson City and Asheville, North Carolina, Abraham says, the build-out will proceed as quickly as possible.

Universal at Thompson Creek will have a clubhouse, fitness center, playground, business center and a zero-entry, or walk-in, pool. The development will include 152 one-bedroom apartments, 138 two-bedroom apartments and 19 three-bedroom apartments. Prices will range from about $700 for a one-bedroom apartment without a garage to about $1,295 for three bedrooms and a garage.

Some developments Abraham and Cox build are called villas. The “universal” branding is new, and represents upgraded amenities and architectural improvements to the façade, according to Abraham.

The road network in the area almost certainly will be reworked to accommodate the increase in traffic. State transportation officials are drawing up plans to reroute traffic on East Morris Boulevard that could include moving the signaled intersection with Pope Road westward to the Millers Point development, according to Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney.

City government has set aside a half-million dollars as an anticipated match for TDOT money to make the road improvements. The mayor says the changes could involve moving the Frank Lorino Park tennis courts to another location inside the park.

Universal at Thompson Creek could have a far broader economic impact than new housing and an increase in the property-tax base. Abraham and Cox have an option to buy approximately 22 acres adjacent to the 18.5 acre farm.

Under ideal circumstances, Abraham says, the property would be developed commercially, both with businesses that will be complementary to Universal at Thompson Creek and establishments like restaurants and professional office space that could be attractive to the broader community.

The mayor expressed optimism that the development could be a jewel in East Morristown that could rival the Merchants Greene business cluster in West Morristown.

Abraham says it’s impossible to predict if an when the future commercial development will occur, the tentative, long-range plan is to connect the businesses to the Walmart-dominated Crockett Square development by extending the frontage road northward.

The developer says Universal at Thompson Creek might not be the end of residential development in Morristown.

“I can absolutely envision building and moving to the west side,” he said.