Monday's planned opening of the new Westin hotel in downtown Chattanooga is the result of "a vision we didn't think would ever happen," said developer Byron DeFoor on Friday.
"It has come to fruition," he said in the spacious lobby of the 260-room hotel at Pine Street and M.L. King Boulevard, seven years after he and brother Ken bought the "Gold Building" from insurer BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.
DeFoor spoke as workmen put finishing touches on the 10-story hotel that's the centerpiece of $88 million the brothers are spending in the area, including new condominiums, eateries and street improvements that they're calling the West Village.
"We wanted to make a statement," said the Chattanooga developer.
Hotel officials said the Westin becomes "the premiere" lodging space in Chattanooga.
"It's got the name of Westin," said Richard Pauley, the hotel's sales and marketing director, adding that rates will start at about $149 nightly and rise to more than $200 a room. "Everything is at a different level."
* Location: Pine Street and M.L. King Boulevard
* Size: 10 stories, 260 rooms
* Cost: Part of $88 million development
* Employees: About 100
* Parking: 260 spaces on site; garage parking across Pine
* Website: westinchattanooga.com
The hotel will offer a full-service, 70-seat restaurant along with two other, smaller eateries, according to General Manager Tom Underwood. There's a bar off the lobby looking down Eighth Street to the Dome Building and another on the 10th floor that also serves food, he said.
Part of the rooftop bar that faces Lookout Mountain is open air, and the entire space can be made so when a glass wall is removed, Pauley said.
He said the hotel has 15,000 square feet of meeting space inside, which can be connected with an equal amount outside. There's th Portman Ballroom, named after the acclaimed Atlanta architect John Portman, who designed the building that opened in 1970 with its signature gold-paneled windows.
Another smaller meeting area is named after Roy McDonald, the late Chattanooga newspaper publisher who brought the BlueCross organization to Tennessee.
"It will be a complement to the Convention Center," Pauley said of the space, which is about two blocks away.
Thompson said it was a challenge to convert the former BlueCross headquarters into a luxury hotel.
"The owners wanted to take the landmark building and revitalize it," he said. The development group declined to say how much the hotel itself cost to build.
All the rooms offer Westin's so-called "heavenly bed" and 50-inch TVs, officials said.
Pauley said that some of the fine points of the hotel are unique and come from the DeFoors themselves. For example, a 25-foot stainless steel replica of the Eiffel Tower sits atop a fountain off Pine Street. Pauley said the DeFoor family heritage hearkens from a small town in France that inspired them to bring a little of their past to Chattanooga.
Also, a small area near the main lobby restaurant is reserved for afternoon tea, which will be served from 2-4 p.m., he said.
"It's something you don't see in every hotel," Pauley said.
The hotel kept the four pod-like elevators located in the center of the building, though those were revamped, officials said. Also, the building maintains an unusual spiral staircase that lets people travel between the second and 10th floors.
A second-floor pool was part of the 30,000 square feet in new space that was added onto the original structure to turn it into a hotel. Four of the rooms off that floor open up to the space around the pool, Pauley said.
Also, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, runners will be offered the chance to take 3- to 5-miles runs to show off downtown, he said. The hotel offers New Balance gear to guests, Pauley said.
He said hotel management expects to garner about 70 percent of guest stays from the corporate and leisure side, with the remainder group business. But, he said, the lobby restaurant and bar are open to non-guests as well.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.