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A half dozen new hotels are underway or planned to begin work this year as Chattanooga area operators look past the pandemic and ready for a return to more leisure and business travel.

"There's a lot of interest and a lot of activity," said Barry White, president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Tourism Co. "People see opportunities in East Ridge, Hixson, and [downtown's] Southside."

White said that as many as 1,500 rooms are in the pipeline over the next two or three years in the area including Northwest Georgia. That's about a 15% increase over the 10,150 or so existing rooms in Hamilton County, he said.

The latest to begin construction is a downtown La Quinta Inn at Cowart and 13th streets in the Southside near the city's Development Resource Center on Market Street.

Ben Berry of Berry Engineers said the 123-unit La Quinta also will hold a two-level parking garage on the vacant site. He said the multimillion-dollar project will include 14,000 square feet of ground-level commercial space.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Construction has started on a La Quinta Inn located in downtown Chattanooga's Southside.

Rivermont Hospitality of Chattanooga had planned the hotel nearly a year and a half ago, but it was put on hold, Berry said.

"They had other options but decided to move forward with construction," he said about the hotel that will face Market Street.

A new use of space is the Aloft Hotel going up next to Hamilton Place mall as part of the redevelopment of the former Sears department store and its parking lots.

The 135-room hotel marks the Aloft brand's entrance into the Chattanooga market. Mall owner CBL Properties is partnering with Chattanooga-based hotel developer Vision Hospitality Group in the project.

"Experiences are the new commodity, and Aloft Hotels get that," said Mitch Patel, Vision Hospitality's president and chief executive officer.

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Staff photo by Mike Pare / Work continues on an Aloft Hotel going up next to Hamilton Place mall near the Cheesecake Factory.

Vision Hospitality also is behind the Kinley Chattanooga Southside, a 64-room hotel that has set an opening for this spring at 1409 Market St. near the Chattanooga Choo Choo.

The location will join a sister property located in Cincinnati and is the beginning of a new brand created and developed by Vison.

Additionally, Chattanooga-based Dynamic Group plans to have three new hotels in Hamilton County under construction in 2021 as the business invests nearly $50 million.

Roshan Amin, president and chief executive of Dynamic Group, said new TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotels are slated for Hixson and East Ridge.

Also, an Element by Westin, another Marriott flag and one not currently in the Chattanooga market, is to go up off Shallowford Road near Hamilton Place mall, he said.

Amin said the coronavirus pandemic had slowed down Dynamic Group's plans in 2020 and work was delayed until now.

""I think there's a lot of pent-up demand that is going to come to fruition," he said about building the new hotels, which are to open in 2022.

Meanwhile, work is underway remaking rooms at the Chattanooga Choo Choo into the Life House boutique hotel.

The Life House has been cited in both Vogue and Architectural Digest, which put the hotel as among 18 of the "most anticipated high-design hotel openings of 2021" worldwide.

When the announcement was made a year ago, Choo Choo President Adam Kinsey said the final piece of the property's redevelopment was the hotel.

Also, the remake of the historic, former YMCA building on the Southside into Common House is a multimillion-dollar makeover. It will become a social club with a restaurant and is to hold hotel rooms and co-working and event space.

The 91-year-old structure at 1517 Mitchell Avenue is expected to open this year as new life emerges in the four-story, white stucco building that was vacant for more than 35 years.

The McLemore resort in Walker County, Georgia, is to hold a 235-room lodge and a 30,000-square-foot convention center.

Groundbreaking has occurred on the lodge, which will hold a Curio by Hilton flag. McLemore CEO Duane Horton hopes to open the convention and hotel complex in 2023.

White said the hotel activity is "a tangible statement of the confidence in the Chattanooga market."

He said the business people behind the hotels analyze a lot of data and understand the risks and the opportunities. Also, their investment keeps people working, White said.

Looking ahead, he said he sees pent-up demand on the leisure travel side.

"We all have cabin fever," White said. "I'm hoping for a come back this summer."

He said business travel will take a little longer as will group events such as conventions.

White said he sees continued improvement in travel as the coronavirus vaccine roll out moves ahead.

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

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