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Staff photo by Mike Pare / New Hope Presbyterian Church sits on about a 4.5-acre tract at 7301 Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place mall. The site was bought to hold a potential future hotel.

A lodging company has won the city's blessing for a zoning change on former church land near Hamilton Place mall that's to lead to a new hotel and help build another home for the congregation.

After years of trying, a group working to put a Drury Plaza Hotel on Shallowford Road has received City Council approval for the rezoning of the New Hope Presbyterian Church property.

Charles Drury of DDC Hotels Inc. declined to give specifics about the project. But he said that the company has bought the 4.55-acre church tract and landed rezoning of parcel from R-1 residential to C-4 planned commerce center.

Records show the company paid $5.55 million for the property that sits just down from the Embassy Suites and borders the Waterside development, which holds Burlington, outdoor retailer REI and grocer Publix.

A site plan shows the hotel at the 7301 Shallowford site not far from Interstate-75 holding more than 200 hotel rooms with parking for 221 vehicles.

The church has occupied the property for about 47 years and tried to have it rezoned for several years. With the construction of the mall more than 30 years ago, the area transformed into the biggest commercial center outside of downtown Chattanooga, and the church was one of the last longtime property holders.

Ronald Young, who is chairman of the church's building and grounds committee, said there's still three or four original members in the congregation and there's a bittersweet taste to the sale of the property.

But, he said, the church already has purchased a new tract not far away on Shallowford Road in a residential area where it's constructing a sanctuary.

"They realize the world is changing. We need to be back in a neighborhood," Young said. "Our ministry will be a great benefit to families."

He said that New Hope Presbyterian's original plan was to use existing church buildings sitting on its new property at 7608 Shallowford which had held the First Assembly of God. But, the deadly April tornado destroyed the existing structures, Young said.

Still, New Hope broke ground on its planned new sanctuary this week and officials hope to be in it next year, he said.

"It's essentially the same size," Young said. "It's more modern and more energy efficient."

Some of the money the church gained from the property sale was donated to help pay off the debts of smaller Presbyterian churches in East Tennessee, he said.

Young said New Hope is still occupying the existing church space though in-person services were suspended due to the coronavirus.

A condition of the rezoning calls for up to a $40,000 payment to the city's transportation department related to traffic issues at Shallowford and Napier Drive, according to documents.

Drury Hotels started as a small business in 1973 and is 100% family-owned, according to the St. Louis-based hotel company. Today, Drury has about 150 hotels in 25 states with some 5,000 employees.

The hotel group offers three options for travelers, Drury Inn, Drury Plaza or Pear Tree Inn. Drury Plaza, identified on the site plan for Shallowford Road, offers what the company calls an upscale environment with deluxe guest rooms and two-room suites.

While the hotel would be just down the road from the Embassy Suites, also nearby is an Aloft Hotel going up adjacent to the mall as part of the Sears redevelopment.

In addition, a large concentration of hotels sit on the opposite side of I-75.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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