|By David Flaum, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 13, 2005 - With $8 million in renovations nearly done, the Downtown Radisson Hotel has morphed into a more upscale place with a new name and theme.
Beginning Tuesday the 18-year-old hotel will be known as Doubletree with the theme "Soul of the City."
"It's a great strategic move for the property," said Chuck Pinkowski, president of Pinkowski and Co., a Memphis hospitality consulting firm.
The change began when Dallas-based Prism Hotels and two investment firms paid $15 million for the hotel late last year and ordered up the renovation.
Reggi Nichols, the architectural designer overseeing the work, calls it re-envisioning.
The building had two components -- the old Tennessee Hotel and the newer building next to it, said Nichols, a principal in Dallas-based Vivian/Nichols. The mission: Blend the buildings, the city and their histories.
That's where soul of the city comes in.
It combines the Memphis music heritage with the soul of the Tennessee Hotel, Nichols said.
The design layers the Sun and Stax record label colors on top of chocolate brown and museum white floors and walls.
Guests will even be able to go to a corner of the lobby, listen to Memphis music and burn their own CDs, she said.
The public space is about 90 percent finished and all but about two floors of rooms have been revamped.
That will put "280 additional quality rooms in the Memphis market," said general manager Patrick Jordan.
Aligning the property with Doubletree, a Hilton Hotels brand, should help bring more tourists Downtown and boost hotel revenues, Jordan said.
For Doubletree, it will be the second hotel in Memphis -- the other is on Sanderlin in East Memphis. All told, Hilton, the parent company, has about 20 hotels in the area, said Dave Horton, senior vice president of brand management for Doubletree.
"This rounds out our presence in the metropolitan area quite nicely," he said.
Doubletree has been beefing up its Tennessee operation. There are two hotels in Nashville. Cooper Cos. of Memphis owns and operates one each in Murfreesboro, Jackson, Johnson City and Oak Ridge, along with the East Memphis hotel. All told, $55 million worth of renovations are being done at the properties, Horton said.
The revamped Downtown property typifies the company's direction contemporary design, he said.
Attractions such as FedEx Forum, AutoZone Park and Beale Street make Downtown desirable for Doubletree, Horton said.
Pinkowski said the move to the Hilton family for the hotel is a good one.
Doubletree is perceived as higher quality than Radisson, and Hilton has one of the two best reservations systems in the industry -- Marriott operating the other, he said.
"It's a step up in the product niche," Pinkowski said.
Not only will that enable the hotel to boost room rates, but it might help others Downtown to do the same, he said.
"It's raising the bar for Downtown," said Doug Brown, general manager of The Peabody, which is finishing its own three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation. "It creates less of a disparity between the quality of the two hotels."
That will make it easier for The Peabody to work with groups that have more people coming to Memphis than the hotel has rooms for, he said.
"I don't see it as direct competition," Brown said. "I see it as a great addition to Downtown."
RADISSON TO DOUBLETREE
--Name changes: Tuesday
--Address: 185 Union
--Top person: Patrick Jordan, general manager
--Restaurant: TGI Friday's
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