A place to sleep, plenty of perks: Chattanooga's Embassy Suites ranks high among hotels

A place to sleep, plenty of perks: Chattanooga's Embassy Suites ranks high among hotels

August 10th, 2014 by Mitra Malek in Business Around the Region

The Hamilton Place Embassy Suites has been ranked highly by both Trip Advisor and Expedia after being open for just over a year.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

The lobby of the seven-story Embassy Suites leads to Ruth's Chris Steak House. The hotel is located in the Waterside Lifestyle Center off Shallowford Road.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Defoors look to expand Waterside

Embassy Suites Chattanooga-Hamilton Place is part of Ken and Byron DeFoor's larger, 69-acre Waterside development.

Interstate 75, Gunbarrel Road and Shallowford Road border the triangle of land on which it sits. So far, it includes the hotel, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Mellow Mushroom, The Melting Pot, h.h. gregg, an office building and a few other shops.

DeFoor declined to discuss what's planned for the rest of the property, but did note that the area "is supposed to be a lifestyle development, and lifestyle developments are supposed to have housing."

The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency will consider zoning changes related to the development, during its 1 p.m. meeting on Monday.

A conceptual site plan shows apartments, a fitness center, an entertainment center, a sporting goods store and retail space.

Planning staff recommends a 30-foot-deep linear park along Gunbarrel Road, to create a transition to neighboring homes and provide a walking amenity.

"Also, we don't want to see any big box stores along Gunbarrel Road," said John Bridger, executive director of the Regional Planning Agency.

It could be the complimentary car care or the bedside Moon Pie. Maybe it's the Peet's coffee or flavored water, available any time, any day.

No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain: something boosted Embassy Suites at Hamilton Place to be among the top 200 hotels for Expedia's annual ranking of the best-reviewed hotels worldwide. That's out of 290,000 hotels.

It goes without saying that the development duo who built and own the hotel are pleased. Ken DeFoor tried to talk his brother, Byron, out of the project. The two had built office complexes, but not lodging, he reasoned.

"It's the best time I was ever wrong," DeFoor said.

The Chattanooga hotel is located right next to the city's retail hub: the sprawling network of stores that wind around Hamilton Place Mall.

"It's one of the best exits in the state, across from the largest mall in the state," DeFoor said.

The amount of traffic to and from Interstate 75 exit is "enormous," said Paul Mezick, the hotel's manager. Travelers from as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Florida roll off the ramp, he said.

Those points were big reasons for putting the hotel where it is, DeFoor said. And the DeFoors picked the Embassy Suites brand in part because several savvy business people advised them to do so, he said.

The 203-room hotel, all suites, opened just over a year ago, on June 14, 2013. From that day through the end of 2013, it had a 54 percent occupancy rate, Mezick said. The rate shot up to 76 percent in the first seven months of 2014. June and July are the hotel's two best occupancy months. Room rates range from $119 to $219 a night.

The seven-story hotel includes Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting or event space.

Expedia couldn't provide data showing whether other hotels in the region had won the same honor in the past. This year, six other Tennessee hotels and seven Georgia hotels made the Insiders' Select list. But only two of those, both in Georgia, made the top 200; the rest ranked in the top 650.

Expedia has been putting out its Insiders' Select list since 2008. It uses a "unique blend" of nearly 2 million verified guest reviews and in-house experts to determine winners, said Dayna Sason, a spokeswoman for the company.

Guests rate service and staff, as well as room cleanliness and comfort. They also rate the hotel's general condition.

Of course, every hotel wants to do well in those areas, said Mezick, the hotel manager. But his team and the DeFoors knew they had to do something "better, unique," he said.

So, shortly after opening, staff started wiping down guests' car windshields every night and leaving a note on them that reads, "Your windshield has been cleaned because you deserve the best view of Chattanooga."

Moon Pies are in every room, with a card telling of the treat's local history.

"We wanted to have our own traditions," Mezick said. "Things that would really be remembered."

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at mmalek@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.