A proposal for a new hotel on Chattanooga's Southside has won city approval to move ahead a second time after an earlier plan to include an old building at the site was changed after the structure was ordered torn down.
A 92-room, five-level boutique hotel at East Main Street and Mitchell Avenue is slated to start going up next year with an opening in 2025, said developer Stephen Wendell of Charleston, South Carolina-based Mountain Shore Properties.
The proposed hotel is one of several going up or planned downtown as the central city is seeing a surge of new lodging.
The boutique hotel could end up with fewer rooms, depending on what the development group does with the top floor, Wendell said in an interview after a recent meeting of the city's Form Based Code Committee.
The panel approved variances for the project, though it struggled with several aspects of the planned new lodging amid some stiff neighborhood opposition.
Last year, the panel OK'd a $25 million hotel project for the site when the development group sought to include the shell of the dilapidated 123-year-old Levin Brothers Building, but the building was later condemned and a judge ordered the structure demolished by the property owner. The developer returned to the city panel a second time with an updated plan, officials said at the meeting.
Kaitlin Sims, performing civil engineering work for the developer, told the panel that the judge's ruling prompted the group to make changes.
"We're pivoting with our design and pivoting with our development," she said.
Sims said a second meeting with the people living and working in the area showed they don't want traffic in the neighborhood created by the hotel. She said a drop-off for patrons and loading site for delivery trucks was cut out in front of the proposed hotel on Main Street, and the Chattanooga Department of Transportation supports that concept.
Also, the developer sought and received a fifth level for the project from the panel, even though the hotel's height is to remain at about 60 feet.
"We're trying to make the best of a situation that's a little bit out of our control," Sims said. "We definitely have some support and some opposition. We tried to mitigate it the best we can."
Jay Heavilon, who owns the two-story Hart Gallery building at 110 Main St. next to the hotel site, told the committee that the variances shouldn't be approved.
"Please follow the spirit and intent of form-based code and Chattanooga city ordinances that don't allow these exceptions," he said.
Heavilon said in an interview after the meeting that the panel "decided the needs of citizens and residents who've been invested in the area over a decade are trumped by out-of-town developers."
"There's no enforcement here," he said.
John Muller, who owns another building nearby, said in an interview that the developer is forcing a structure too big for the neighborhood.
He said cutting the proposed drop-off on Main Street isn't enough.
"As soon as that doesn't work, they'll end up on Mitchell Avenue," Muller said. "That's the reality of it."
Wendell said the hotel can control food deliveries, with most loading done in the morning.
"It won't come after hours," he said.
Also, Wendell said the hotel will provide valet-only parking for guests.
"We don't want to have a horrendous parking situation for guests," he said. "The valet system is not perfect, but it's pretty good."
Wendell said Texas-based hospitality management entity Bunkhouse Group will be involved with the hotel, one of a number of new lodging facilities either going up or planned for downtown.
A few blocks away, a Caption by Hyatt hotel is slated to go up at 105 W. Main St. The city's first Hyatt hotel is a planned five-level, 123-room facility, according to Chattanooga's 3H Group.
Also, Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality recently broke ground on a $54 million Embassy Suites hotel at Fourth and Broad streets that will hold 184 rooms.
In addition, a developer has revealed plans for a seven-story structure holding both the Home2 Suites and Tru by Hilton hotel brands near the Chattanooga Convention Center on Carter Street.
Construction has started on a La Quinta Inn at Cowart and 13th streets. That hotel will hold 123 rooms, an official said earlier.