Chattanooga should get a downtown boutique hotel next year, rising from a corner that has long housed an outdated shell of a building near the Bluff View Art District.
Developers closed on 102 Walnut St. this month, paying $2.35 million for the .8-acre site, after locking down zoning changes late last year that allow the hotel to be built there.
Vision Hospitality Group is keeping quiet on what the hotel will cost to construct and what it might be named. The Chattanooga-based company has hired The Gettys Group, an international design firm, to help with branding, right down to the hotel's "Do-Not-Disturb" signs.
"This is a departure from what we traditionally do," said Mitch Patel, Vision Hospitality's president and CEO. "You have to define the entire story."
Indeed, Vision Hospitality has built its business on opening Hilton- and Marriott-branded hotels. The company has 32 hotels across the nation, with another five under construction.
"When you develop a branded hotel, the story is already written for you," Patel said.
A few things can be disclosed though, Patel said. The old building on the site will be demolished, replaced by five floors of 90 rooms, a usable rooftop and an art-type gallery. Rooms will cost more than $200 a night.
"This is definitely going to be high-end," Patel said.
The hotel will sit at the southern end of the iconic Walnut Street Bridge, near the Museum Bluffs Parkview condominiums and a close walk from the Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum of American Art.
"If we developed a hotel of this caliber, we wanted to make sure it was at an incredible location," Patel said. "They don't make sites like that anymore."
Patel believes that the hotel's theme will draw cosmopolitan visitors who are looking for a bit of flair in their vacation experience. "There's a certain demographic that Chattanooga is not getting," Patel said.
Agreed, said Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I believe there is clearly room in our city for this."
Chattanooga has low-budget to high-budget branded motels and hotels, as well as the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, a hotel with a niche theme and hundreds of rooms. The Bluff View Inn offers a bed-and-breakfast experience in historic homes, but that adds up to only a dozen or so rooms. The Stone Fort Inn has 20 rooms and is described as "a cross between a bed and breakfast and a boutique urban inn" on its website. The city has another example of boutique accommodations for its lodge-type, The Crash Pad, but it's a hostel geared toward the outdoors crowd.
Patel expects his company's hotel to open in autumn 2016. Plans also call for a two-level parking garage with space for 115 cars.
About three years ago, Vision Hospitality had considered putting a Fairfield Inn by Marriott on the land. At the time, neighbors were concerned that it would be too high and that the project would open the area to commercialization. Plans had called for more floors and more rooms than the boutique hotel.
The 102 Walnut site had been on the market for about eight years, said Chad Wamack of NAI Charter Real Estate. The recent sale, which he handled, is "a good indication that the market's back," Wamack said. "It's a sale that will help drive the comparables."
Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter @mitramalek.