Work on Westin hotel to start this fall in downtown Chattanooga

Work on Westin hotel to start this fall in downtown Chattanooga

More than 500 rooms slated for central city

August 7th, 2015 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The Blue Cross/Blue Shield building at 801 Pine Street is one of three the insuror has for sale as work proceeds on the new offices atop Cameron Hill. The golden glass structure opened for business in 1970.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

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Vision Hospitality is building a 90-room boutique hotel near the Walnut Street Bridge.

Vision Hospitality is building a 90-room boutique hotel...

Photo by Contributed Rendering

Planned downtown hotels

* Westin hotel, 801 Pine St., more than 200 rooms

* Holiday Inn & Suites, 434 Chestnut St., 140 rooms

* Boutique hotel, Walnut Street and Aquarium Way, 90 rooms

* Chattanooga Bank Building, Eighth and Market streets, 150 rooms

Source: River City Co., news archives

Staff photo by Doug Strickland Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau President Bob Doak announces the creation of the new Chattanooga Marathon at a news conference Thursday, June 18, 2015, at Coolidge Park in Chattanooga, Tenn. The marathon is set to take place March 4-6 of 2016.

Staff photo by Doug Strickland Chattanooga Convention & Visitors...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Kim White, president and CEO of River City Company, gives a presentation in this 2014 file photo.

Kim White, president and CEO of River City...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Work on a proposed 200-room Westin hotel in downtown Chattanooga's so-called Gold Building is slated to start this fall, an official said Thursday.

The hotel, which has been talked about since 2012, also will hold convention meeting space, said Kim White, who heads the nonprofit downtown redevelopment group River City Co.

"There are large conventions we can't handle here because we don't have enough hotel space," White told the Chattanooga Rotary Club.

White said the planned hotel, slated for 801 Pine St. near U.S. Highway 27, would be part of a larger investment in the area by the building's owners, Chattanooga developers Byron and Ken DeFoor.

She said plans call for major building and street enhancements to Eighth Street.

White said the work "will totally change the look and feel of this area and make it a destination location for festivals and events."

Ken DeFoor declined comment on the plans and how much the brothers are to invest. They bought the vacant Gold Building in 2010 for $6.15 million from health insurer BlueCross Blue- Shield of Tennessee.

The 10-story structure, noted for its reflective gold windows and designed by famed Atlanta architect John Portman, was the headquarters for Blue- Cross before the insurer built a $299 million home office on nearby Cameron Hill.

The number includes 150 planned for the former Chattanooga Bank Building at Eighth and Market streets, where work is to start in March 2016 on another new hotel.

White said more than 500 total hotel rooms are slated for all of downtown within the next year-and-a-half.

Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said developers such as the DeFoors do feasibility studies before investing their money and know what the market can hold.

He said the planned Westin hotel's location a few blocks from the Convention Center should help both properties.

"The Westin is a flag we don't have," Doak said.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said downtown has come a long way in the last 18 months.

"There's power in the Chattanooga brand right now," he said.

Also downtown, an out-of-town development group is proposing a $31 million hotel in the vacant Chattanooga Bank Building.

The proposed price tag to renovate the 87-year-old, 10-story structure would make it one of the most expensive hotels ever in Chattanooga. The seven-story Embassy Suites near Hamilton Place, constructed earlier this decade, cost an estimated $40 million.

Also downtown, a new $19 million, 7-story Holiday Inn & Suites is under construction and slated to open this year at 434 Chestnut St.

A five-story, 90-room upscale boutique hotel is planned near the Walnut Street Bridge by Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Group.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.