A boutique hotel under construction on Walnut Street in downtown Chattanooga now has a name: The Edwin.
The upscale, 90-room hotel has a story, too, its owner says.
The name is a nod to Edwin Thacher, the engineer who designed the Walnut Street Bridge, which carried traffic over the Tennessee River from the 1890s to 1979. Then, the bridge was closed for about a decade and eyed for demolition. But the community rallied, and the 2,376-foot-long span was reborn as one of the world's longest pedestrian-only bridges, beloved by residents and visitors.
"To me, it's a tribute to the Chattanooga can-do attitude," said Mitch Patel, president and CEO of Vision Hospitality Group, Inc., the Chattanooga-based hotel company that's building The Edwin.
The Edwin's story uses the bridge as a metaphor, Patel said. The hotel will connect visitors, he said, with Chattanooga's history, culture, outdoor opportunities and residents.
"It's a wonderful opportunity to tell the Chattanooga story through our hotel," Patel said. "This hotel is for everyone. We want it to be a cultural center."
Everything about The Edwin — from the 50 art works to be commissioned by local artists to the locally-sourced bread and coffee — will celebrate Chattanooga, Patel said.
"Experiences have become the new commodity," Patel said. "Most people are looking for something authentic."
Rooms will start at above $200 a night, he said. But the free valet parking for the hotel's 115 parking spaces will be available to locals who eat at the hotel's first-floor restaurant or have drinks on the rooftop bar.
The Edwin, which got under construction in August, is due to open in the spring of 2017.
Michaela Leaf, who works nearby as a manager at Rembrandt's Coffee House, said people are talking about the new hotel.
"It'll be awesome to have another nice hotel in the middle of town," Leaf said. "I think people are exicted about it."
Patel, who worked for three years as a civil engineer in Atlanta before joining the family hotel business, feels a personal connection with Edwin Thacher.
"I literally was a bridge builder," he said. "I designed bridges."
Patel's company already owns nine hotels in the Chattanooga area, including four downtown. Vision Hospitality group owns 32 hotels nationwide, Patel said, and has 11 more in the pipeline.
This is the first hotel brand launched by the Vision Group, which operates hotel franchises including the Hampton Inn, Fairfield Inn and Suites and Doubletree.
"I am most excited about The Edwin of all the hotels we have in the pipeline," Patel said. "To do something in our own backyard means a lot."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.