|By Cynthia Yeldell, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 23, 2005 - Workers are completing construction on a $13 million full-service hotel on the edge of downtown Knoxville and owners have begun taking room reservations for the property, which is expected to open by Sept. 20.
Cumberland House Hotel, located at 1109 White Ave., is adjacent to the Knoxville Convention Center, World's Fair Park and the University of Tennessee.
It is the downtown area's first newly constructed hotel since the 1982 World's Fair and was designed for business travelers, although UT football fans also are taking advantage of the hotel's proximity to Neyland Stadium.
"All of the football weekends are booking rather quickly," said Paul West, director of operations for Memphis-based Maximum Hospitality, the group managing the hotel.
The seven-story hotel has 130 guest rooms, including 10 luxury suites. There also are five meeting rooms with more than 3,400 square feet, including a ballroom that seats 140 people, a 14-person boardroom and a 24-hour center where guests can conduct business.
By comparison, the Crowne Plaza (formerly the Radisson Summit Hill) has 197 rooms, and other downtown hotels -- the Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn -- have more.
Owners of the Cumberland House said they chose not to affiliate with a franchise so that their hotel could be tailored to the Knoxville community.
Gary Prosterman, developer and managing partner of Memphis-based White Avenue Hotel Partners LLC, is a 1980 UT graduate and also sits on the advisory board of the university's Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management department.
"We've done as much as possible to make this 'Knoxville's hotel' instead of just another corporate chain hotel," Prosterman said in a statement.
Prosterman has developed 23 hotels in the Southeast.
Cumberland House is Maximum Hospitality's first hotel in Knoxville. According to its Web site, the group has seven other properties in Tennessee, Texas and Florida.
Features of the Knoxville hotel include valet parking, high-speed wireless Internet access and a health club.
Local restaurateur Randy Burleson will operate the hotel's full-service restaurant, MK, which will have "upscale" lunch and dinner menus. Burleson owns Edison Park Steakhouse, Aubrey's, Sunspot, Stefano's and Barley's Tap Room & Pizzeria.
West said Cumberland House is better quality than a typical franchise hotel and is for anybody who is looking for something different.
"We wanted to be unshackled in what we wanted to develop," West said. "We didn't feel there was a brand available in what we wanted to offer Knoxville."
He said one of the unique features of the hotel will be its "pillow library." If a customer doesn't like the pillows in the room, they can choose from 24 different types of pillows offered by the hotel.
Jill Thompson, executive director of the Knoxville Tourism Alliance, said the opening of a new hotel near downtown Knoxville continues the revitalization in the area and helps promote growth.
She said the Cumberland House Hotel's unique position as a non-franchise property gives it the freedom to adapt to the community and work closer with UT.
"They can make business decisions based on the community, not based on a nationwide mindset," Thompson said. "They have that flexibility."
West said the hotel plans to have a working relationship with the students in UT's Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management department.
Cumberland House also will give students chances to observe a working hotel and provide shadowing opportunities and internships.
The hotel is expected to have about 50 employees.
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Copyright (c) 2005, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.
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