Moxy Hotel slated for Chattanooga's Southside [photos, video]

Moxy Hotel slated for Chattanooga's Southside [photos, video]

December 11th, 2016 by Tim Omarzu in Business Around the Region

Gallery: Moxy Hotel — a hip, youthful, European brand — slated for Chattanooga's Southside

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Moxie means energy and pep. It's a word that stems from the soft drink "Moxie" that reportedly outsold Coca-Cola in its 1920s' heyday and still has a loyal following in its home base, New England.

Energy is what Chattanooga hotel developer Hiren Desai hopes his new, four-story 102-room Moxy Hotel adds to Chattanooga's already booming Southside neighborhood.

Desai plans to break ground in March at King and Market streets for the boutique hotel brand that's part of Mariott International. Moxy launched in 2014 in Milan, Italy, and the brand is now in a handful of German cities, in Aberdeen, Scotland, and in two U.S. cities: Tempe, Ariz., and New Orleans, La.

"It's a big deal," said Desai, the CEO of 3H Group Hotels. "Moxy is new to the U.S."

Moxy Hotel is geared toward the millennial generation, he said. The emphasis is on a large, fun, communal first-floor space and smaller rooms upstairs with in-room storage for such items as bicycles.

"It's kind of edgy," Desai said. "The check-in is actually a bar. Before you get your key, you get a drink."

Instead of typical drip coffee, Moxy Hotel offers espresso and lattes at the bar for breakfast.

"It doesn't have too many luxuries; it has the necessities," he said. "It'll be a good fit for the Southside."

Desai will build the hotel on a former city-owned parking lot across from St. John's Restaurant. The hotel will have an outdoor patio that fronts Market Street. The hotel already has approval from city of Chattanooga staff through the city's new form-based code, said Alex Grace, principal of Grace Construction Consultants.

The Moxy Hotel brand plans to expand, including to European capitals such as London, Vienna and Oslo as well as in New York City, San Francisco and two other Tennessee cities: Memphis and Nashville.

Chattanooga had to prove its worth to Moxy Hotel officials, who visited the city three times before approving the brand coming here, Desai said.

Bob Doak, chief executive of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitor Bureau, is excited about Moxy Hotel coming to Chattanooga.

"I think it's one of the cooler brands I've seen in a long time," said Doak, who served as general manager of the nearby Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel complex before joining the tourism bureau in 2002. "I think it will fit here."

"It continues to show that this city stays on the cutting edge, whether it's technology, whether it's hotels, whether it's restaurants," he said. "We're seeing growth. Not every city can claim that."

The Chattanooga Moxy Hotel will take about a year to build, Desai said, so it should open in the spring of 2018.

It won't be Chattanooga's only new boutique hotel.

Just down Market Street, developer Marta Alter wants to renovate and reopen the former St. George Hotel as a 55-room boutique hotel by 2018.

Chattanooga hotel developer Mitch Patel is building the Edwin Hotel, an upscale, 90-room hotel on Walnut Street near the pedestrian bridge, that's due to open in the spring of this year.

Another investment group is proposing to remake the historic, 10-story Chattanooga Bank Building downtown into an Aloft Hotel — a trendy, boutique brand that will offer about 150 rooms and valet parking.

And the Read House, a landmark downtown hotel, has a new owner who plans a $20 million makeover that will embrace the Read House's history, including putting 1926-style furnishings to its alleged haunted room 311.

The competition doesn't phase Desai, who in the past year sold nine hotels, including four recent hotels for $47 million, and is investing some of that in Chattanooga.

"I think everybody has their own niche," said Desai, a 47-year-old married father to two boys. Desai was born in the African nation of Zambia and educated at boarding school in England before he moved to Chattanooga in 1987 to study economics and industrial management at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Desai is bullish on the Southside.

He's a co-owner of the Edney Building at the corner of 11th and Market streets, an office building that's the so-called "hub" of Chattanooga's new Innovation District downtown. And Desai recently spent $2.1 million to a buy a three-story, brick building at 27 W. Main St. that held Chuck's II, a gay bar that was a pioneering business when it opened on the once-blighted Southside.

"I believe in the Southside," Desai said.

Desai hasn't yet decided what he'll do, long-term, with the building at 27 W. Main St. But in the short term, Desai may set up a model of a Moxy Hotel room inside one of the vacant storefronts, so passersby can see what Chattanooga's Moxy Hotel will look like.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.