published Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Hamilton Place now has more hotel rooms than downtown Chattanooga

A new six-story hotel opens in East Brainerd today at Hamilton Place Mall, adding 134 rooms to the nearly 2,000 hotel rooms now available within a mile of the mall.

Chattanooga hotel developer Vision Hospitality Group, Inc. opened the new Hampton Inn & Suites at 2014 Hamilton Place Blvd. The $14 million project will cater to business travelers and offers about 1,300 square feet of meeting space to accommodate events for as many as 100 people.

The new inn underscores the slow explosion of hotel lodging in the area around Exit 5 on I-75. Two dozen hotels are clustered in the neighborhood, which is close to the Chattanooga airport and major economic drivers like Volkswagen and Amazon. But the area pulls from the region, not just from local businesses, said Mitch Patel, Vision Hospitality president and CEO.

"Hamilton Place has become an oasis," he said. "From Cleveland to Dalton to Soddy Daisy, if you are going to conduct any business within a 30-mile radius, Hamilton Place has become quite draw for people who want to spend the night. Because the restaurants are there, the shopping is there, the airport is not far away."

After double-digit growth in hotel revenues in from 2009 to 2010 and an additional 9 percent growth in 2011, Chattanooga's hotel industry started to level off in 2012, growing revenues just 1.2 percent last year, according to Smith Travel Research.

Now, the number of hotel rooms at Hamilton Place rivals the Scenic City's downtown offerings and the Hamilton Place market is all but full, with demand dipping below supply.

"At this moment in time, we may be hitting the saturation point," Patel said. "But we're in this business for the long term and there have been many points in many markets when we've hit saturation points. We've seen time and time again supply get absorbed by growing demand, and these hotels will ramp back up to the occupancy we're looking for."

While most of the neighborhood's hotels are located on the north side of the interstate, Vision Hospitality's new Hampton Inn & Suites is tucked on the south side, just a short walk from the Hamilton Place Mall, which Patel hopes will help give the hotel a leg up on the competition. It also features a unique design, swimming pool, fitness and business centers and an outdoor patio.

The state-of-the art facility will replace the existing Hampton Inn on Shallowford Road, which is set to lose the Hampton name in 2015, Patel said.

Downtown hoteliers aren't worried about the saturated Hamilton Place market.

"It's a whole separate environment," said Andrea Anderson, general manager at the downtown Courtyard by Marriott. "The downtown market and Hamilton Place Market are two totally different areas of town."

And while the downtown hotel market has been full for years, new conventions and events like Ironman are helping to keep demand strong, said Bill Mish, general manager at the DoubleTree by Hilton downtown.

"We're competing more than we ever have before," he said. "Chattanooga is one of those cities that always came in as a third-tier market, so to speak. And with the ability to drive these new conventions to town, we're really teetering on becoming a second-tier market. And that's a big thing to recognize when you're talking about hotel rooms."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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