Proposed hotel on Chattanooga riverfront may affect Riverbend, other festivals

Proposed hotel on Chattanooga riverfront may affect Riverbend, other festivals

September 22nd, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Proposed riverfront hotel in Chattanooga

Proposed riverfront hotel in Chattanooga

A hotel proposed for Chattanooga's riverfront could put the squeeze on the Riverbend and Head of the Hooch festivals, though a hotel development would bring in more revenue year-round than the parking lots that are currently onsite.

The land proposed for the hotel by the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. is adjacent to the Olgiati Bridge, at the corner of Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley. Riverbend concertgoers know it as the site of some of the concessions fronting the Bud Light stage, where the open lot allows crowds to enjoy a combination of music and food.

Property around the site is divided into slices owned by Chattanooga, the city's development group and the River City Co.

Chip Baker, executive director for Friends of the Festival, said he would "make it work," even though the changes will reduce Riverbend's overall footprint.

"Every year the festival changes to some degree," Baker said. "It's a lot of space, but the thing we do well is work and plan with all constituencies."

Though the plan is still in the early stages, the idea for building a hotel on the site is nothing new, said Richard Beeland, spokesman for Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

"This is something that everyone downtown has been involved in for a long time, and it's something everyone has anticipated," Beeland said. "Riverbend has been notified, and I know that they are aware of what may or may not happen on that block and will be able to make the appropriate changes."

Steve Genovesi, vice president of sales and marketing for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that tourism officials would work to "ensure that high-impact events, such as Head of the Hooch and Riverbend aren't negatively affected."

"Because of our tourism success, it's certainly not surprising to hear of this kind of future hotel development," Genovesi said.

River City Co. also will "play a role" in the development, said Kim White, CEO of the nonprofit developer.

White's goal, she said, is to find the "highest and best use for the property," but "it needs to be looked at in the context of an overall plan."

There are already several nearby hotels under development or under study, including a Springhill Suites under construction and a plan for a hotel by developer Ken DeFoor in the former BlueCross Gold Building. In addition, developer Mitch Patel recently completed a Hampton Inn & Suites a few blocks away.

"We have people all the time who want parcels," White said. "Let's look at it in context of what's still needed and look at what revenue these events are bringing in, and look at how we can still have Head of the Hooch and Riverbend but still have development."

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