News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Mark Watson, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 20, 2003 - A $30-million Westin Hotel is slated to be built near Beale Street and the new FedExForum arena, providing about 150 jobs.
Senate Hospitality of Nashville and Performa, the company that developed the Beale Street entertainment district as it is now, are working on the project, which includes a hotel with 200-220 rooms and a 420-car garage.
The hotel and garage will occupy land between Second and Third streets and between Lieutenant Lee and Blues Alley north of the Gibson guitar factory and west of the arena.
The developers hope to start construction by mid-2004.
"It's not quite done yet," said Dave Jones, Senate Hospitality president. "There's still financing and some things that have to be tied down yet. We continue to move forward. ... We have a letter of understanding with Westin. ... There's no question about the fact that it's our intention to develop that property."
Asked about the planned project, Kevin Kane, Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau president, said he knew Westin had been interested in locating a hotel in Memphis "for some time."
"We knew it was inevitable when you build a $250 million arena, there's going to be additional development around there," Kane said. "They're an aggressive company. It's a great compliment to Memphis. It's a pretty upscale product."
Chuck Pinkowski, principal of the Pinkowski and Company hospitality consulting firm, said such a project typically takes about 15 months to complete. He is working on a feasibility study for it, which Jones said he hopes to receive after the holidays.
Performa and the city would lease the land for the project for 75 years.
Performa has the land under lease for the first 35 years and would sublease it to the hotel; the city would lease it for the remaining 40 years.
The property is being used now as a parking lot.
The Hnedak Bobo Group has been selected as the architects.
John Elkington, owner of Performa, said the project supports Mayor Willie Herenton's original contention that FedExForum should be built where it is now being built, rather than along Union near Danny Thomas.
"This substantiates that this was the best site," Elkington said. "This will be a major investment in downtown. It requires no public dollars. This was a piece of property that we felt needed to be developed."
The developers wanted minority participation in the deal, so they expect to have 25 percent of the hotel and 50 percent of the garage owned by minorities, Elkington said.
"Westin has a very strong diversity program," Jones said.
The site is attractive for Performa because it provides an upscale place for visitors to stay while they're touring the Beale Street entertainment district, Jones said.
"When you look at most major metro markets, except for New Orleans, usually, there aren't too many hospitality venues in entertainment districts," Jones said. "That's why we think this works."
The nearest hotel to Beale Street currently is the Hampton Inn and Suites at 175 Peabody Place, a block north of Beale.
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(c) 2003, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. HOT, FDX, HLT,