One of the top hotel destinations along Interstate 75 is getting three more hotels to add to the two dozen already operating around the Shallowford Road exit in Chattanooga.
A new Holiday Inn Express Candlewood Suites is being developed by the Chattanooga-based 3H Group at 7524 Shallowford Road. Hiren Desai, the founder and CEO of the 3H Group in Chattanooga, said Friday that site work began earlier this year, and he hopes to open a 155-room Holiday Inn Express Candlewood Suites by May 2024.
"This a great location for both business and leisure travel and has become a favorite overnight or weekend stopover for those traveling between the Midwest and Florida," Desai said in an interview Friday about the continued development at the exit leading into Hamilton Place Mall.
Desai's $25 million Holiday Inn Express is being built just a couple of blocks from where site work recently began for a new Drury Plaza Hotel on the site of the former New Hope Presbyterian Church property. The St. Louis-based Drury Hotels bought the church at 7301 Shallowford Road in 2020 and plans to build a 210-room hotel on the parcel just off I-75, according to Charles Drury III, a director of development for DDC Hotels Inc.
"Chattanooga is an exciting market with a lot of economic growth and a city we're proud to be a part of for the next 40-plus years," Dury said in a telephone interview Friday.
On the other side of I-75, the Dynamic Group opened a 131-room Elements by Westin in October and is now planning to also build an adjacent Marriott Courtyard Hamilton Place to create a new business conference facility. The new hotel will have 133 rooms and a 5,000-plus square-foot conference center for large events, according to Jonathan Armstrong, the company's regional sales and marketing director.
"A shared parking lot with the Element hotel will allow for all our Dynamic Conference Center event guests to stay on our campus at 7015 Shallowford Road," Armstrong said in an emailed statement Friday. "Both the Element and Courtyard have full kitchens for the restaurants and bars within them and to support the catering for the Dynamic Conference Center."
At the new 3H development, Desai said parcels next to the new Holiday Inn Express could be developed into a new restaurant or two to add to the hospitality appeal of the development.
Hotels sprout around mall
The hotel developers are continuing more than three decades of lodging growth at Exit 5 on I-75 in East Brainerd. Since Hamilton Place Mall opened in 1987, the area has developed into the top retail and commercial area in Southeast Tennessee.
Desai, a Zambia native who came to the United States in 1987 to pursue his degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, opened his first hotel in 1993 off of Shallowford Road when he opened a Country Suites hotel when was just 24 years old. Over his 30-year career, Desai has helped develop and later sold a half dozen other hotels in the Shallowford Road area. 3H Group continues to operate the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Shallowford Village Drive.
"This area has become a real stronghold for lodging in the city, and we've seen a lot more one- or two-night stays lengthen to two- or three-day stays in these hotels," Desai said.
Over the past 30 years, the number of hotels at Exit 5 has far outdistanced the number of hotels and rooms at Exit 1 on I-75 in East Ridge, which at one time a generation ago offered more hotel rooms than any exit on I-75 from Florida to Michigan.
The Shallowford Road area has helped birth Chattanooga's biggest hotel development firm. Mitch Patel developed Vision Hospitality after opening his first hotel with his uncle in 1997 when he developed and managed a Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel near Hamilton Place mall. Vision Hospitality has since grown to include 42 hotels in nine states.
More room at the inn
The three new hotels along Shallowford Road in East Brainerd are in addition to another half dozen hotels either under development or in some stage of construction in downtown Chattanooga.
Although business travel has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic levels, hotel revenues in Chattanooga last year were up by 25.8% from the pre-pandemic peak reached in 2019, with a 5.4% increase in rooms sold in 2022 to a record high, according to the Chattanooga Tourism Co.
The 3H Group sold both the Staybridge Suites and Moxy hotel in downtown Chattanooga in the past three months, but the development firm still operates 20 hotels in six states and is building six others, in addition to other commercial and residential building projects, Desai said.