A $25 million, five-story boutique hotel proposed for Chattanooga's Southside won approval from a city panel on Thursday despite worries by a neighbor that it's too big for the site.
The 90-room hotel is planned for East Main Street and Mitchell Avenue, said Stephen Wendell of Mountain Shore Properties of Charleston, South Carolina, one of the developers of the tract.
He said in an interview after the city's Form-Based Code Committee OK'd variances for the project that work is expected to start next year, with the hotel opening in 2024.
According to plans, the hotel is expected to include an existing 122-year-old building that has been long vacant at Main and Mitchell. The project also will take up an empty lot next door and extend to an alley in the rear.
"We'll bring a world-class operation to the market," Wendell said at the meeting, adding that Texas-based hospitality management entity Bunkhouse Group will be involved with the hotel.
One of the variances approved by the city panel was a request to add the fifth floor to the building.
Jay Heavilon, who owns the two-story Hart Gallery building at 110 Main St. next to the hotel site, said the proposed structure will dominate the street.
"It will be the tallest building on Main Street," he said. "They're trying to shoehorn too much development in a piece of property."
Heavilon said the city isn't following its own code by approving the building.
Panel members discussed the proposal for about an hour, finally coming to a unanimous OK of the variances.
Committee member Jim Williamson, who works for the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said that he had "spent a decade trying to save the building."
Chattanooga architect Scott Smith of Pfeffer Torode Architecture, who is working on the project, told the panel that there were meetings with the neighborhood. He said the height isn't significantly larger than some other structures around town.
"The height was driven by the existing structure," he said.
Without the added floor, the hotel would have lost about 25% of its rooms, Smith said. He also said the hotel operators won't allow delivery and other trucks to park in the rear alley.
Wendell said the hotel's development group, which includes property owner Kevin Boehm, is looking at several options related to parking.
"We're pretty confident we'll get there," he said.
Chattanooga's Southside has added a number of hotel rooms in recent years, even as the Chattanooga Choo Choo had turned some of its lodging into apartments.
The Kinley hotel by locally based Vision Hospitality Group opened in 2021 on Market Street nearby in a $14 million, 64-room project.
Also, at Market and King streets, Chattanooga-based hotel company 3H Group opened a $19 million, 108-room hotel called the Moxy in 2018.