|By Ellis Smith, Chattanooga Times Free
Press, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 21, 2012--Embassy Suites, an upscale chain owned by Hilton, is finally coming to Chattanooga.
The towering luxury project will join a number of other area hotels planned or under construction, as banks loosen up on loans for new projects to serve Chattanooga's tourism industry.
In place of a "coming soon" sign that has stood for years at the corner of Shallowford Road and Lifestyle Way, workers on Tuesday swarmed over the groundwork for the Embassy Suites, which will form part of the mixed-use Waterside development.
"It's under construction now," said Mike Price, head of MAP Engineers.
Construction should take up to a year, and the hotel will anchor a development that is expected to include residential and office space, according to an agreement with the city.
Developer Ken DeFoor said more details are coming in the next two weeks. Building permits show that the seven-story, 203-room hotel project will also include three shops and two restaurants covering 190,818 square feet.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is slated to be one of those restaurants, after DeFoor secured agreement from the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board to allow the serving of alcohol.
The famous eatery, billed by celebrities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as the best steakhouse in the country, will be available to local residents as well as guests.
Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is excited to see the hotel join the approximately 2,250 rooms already available in Chattanooga.
"It shows that our hoteliers have great confidence in the strength of tourism in Chattanooga," Doak said. "Embassy Suites has a loyal clientele, and I believe it will help to drive incremental business to Chattanooga."
In fact, DeFoor's entire development marks a precedent for the city, which had never before adopted a mixed commercial, office and residential development zone.
"This was the first mixed-use zoning approval we gave in Chattanooga," said Chattanooga city councilman Jack Benson, who helped push the project.
"I went to some conferences where they were showing what some suburbs that Atlanta had done with mixed use. The vision for that was to be a place where people could live and go to their doctor, or go eat, or go play or go to the library without getting in a car. "
Much of Chattanooga's recent urban renewal, specifically in the city's Northshore and Southside districts, came about as a result of continuing the mixed-use policy, Benson said.
A Mellow Mushroom, hhgregg and a freshwater pond already exist at the site. The property is slated to eventually include nearly 30 residential units and a branch library for the community's use, said Tammy Loper, president of the Brainerd/East Brainerd Chamber Council.
"Building that library is a promise he's made and one that he intends to keep," she said.
Planning started in earnest around 2005, but DeFoor's mixed-use project slowed down with the onset of the recession, she said.
"To get financing at that point, when everybody was pulling the reins back on lending money, was tough," Loper said.
But with the housing market coming back, "to see it start to blossom again is a fantastic thing," Loper said.
DeFoor is keeping most details on the hotel under wraps until early April, but Embassy Suites bills itself as a luxury hotel that offers guests "more space to spread out," and currently boasts 200 locations with plans to increase inventory to 300 hotels by the end of 2013, according to its website.
J.D. Power and Associates gave Embassy Suites its highest honor in the upscale hotel segment for eight years in a row.
The hotels usually include complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast; beverages and business centers; high speed and wireless Internet access; a pool and typical suite supplies like a refrigerator, microwave and wet bar in every room.
Construction on the hotel came as rival developer Mitch Patel rolled the bulldozers on his own hotel on the opposite end of Gunbarrel Road for a new Hampton Inn and Suites. He's also working on a hotel in Cleveland, Tenn., for a total of about 230 rooms to DeFoor's 203 rooms.
(c)2012 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
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