The rough and tumble economy has an unexpected upside.
Reduced construction costs due to a flustered business environment will allow a new Chattanooga hotel to pursue LEED silver certification, according to Mitch Patel, president and CEO of Vision Hospitality Group.
"This is a very good time to build a hotel, with construction costs where they are right now," Mr. Patel said. "I don't know if we would have pursued the LEED silver certification, or if we would be able to if construction costs weren't lower."
LEED certification is a recognition of a project's environmental efforts.
Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Group announced recently that it obtained financing and is beginning construction on a new 134-room Hampton Inn & Suites located at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets at the former site of the Regional History Museum.
Mr. Patel said that after years of talking about the project, he was glad to get construction under way on the hotel, slated for completion in April 2011.
"We finally closed on the financing last week, so we have the green light to start construction," he said.
In addition to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, the $18.2 million, six-story hotel will include a 130-space parking structure under the hotel, and offer additional retail space in the area.
"Our plan is to add 15,000 square feet of retail and office space on Broad Street in the future, so it's going to be a true mixed-use development when it's all done," Mr. Patel said.
The hotel will feature an indoor-outdoor pool, fitness room, and business center, he said, as well as an urban courtyard in the space between the L-shaped building's wings.
How the Hampton Inn will achieve LEED certification:
* Daylighting: The hotel will feature large guestroom windows and lots of storefront windows on the ground floor to promote a welcome and open environment, and connect guests to the surrounding environment.
* Education Program: The contractor will use local artists and craftsman, and will provide photo documentation and a display of the trades employed in the project.
* Public Transportation Access: This project takes advantage of the multiple bus lines that are within blocks that allows employees to bus to work.
* Development Density and Community Connectivity: The site is within a short walking distance of ample housing for employees and public transportation. Shower facilities and locker rooms will be provided for employees that walk, run or bike to work.
* Optimize Energy Performance: The building will use high efficiency HVAC units and heat wheel energy recovery equipment to recover energy that would normally be lost. The building also will use LED fixtures. Use of low flow fixtures will reduce the total water consumption. Lastly, the hotel will use a system that collects and temporarily holds stormwater runoff.
Source: River Street Architecture
River Street Architecture designed the building, which will deviate from standard Hampton Inn design cues, according to project architect Craig Peavy. He said the building will be pushed closer to the street to benefit pedestrians, as opposed to the traditional "greenfill" design where the hotel building sits in the center of a large parking lot.
"This is an upper scale custom urban prototype that we designed with Vision," Mr. Peavy said. "We'll have hardwood floors, tile floors, marble bathrooms, and granite countertops. We've replaced fluorescent lights in the hallways with LEDs, and they use so little electricity we were able to use a couple more lights."
EMJ Corp. will serve as building contractor. Doug Martin, EMJ's senior vice president, said building in an urban environment will be a challenge.
"You're basically building it on a postage stamp," he said. "Building it in that environment is tricky."
Other planned downtown hotels
Plans have been announced to turn the landmark Chattanooga Bank and Maclellan buildings downtown into hotels. A hotel is also envisioned as part of the Cameron Harbor development alongside the Tennessee River downtown.