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Knoxville's Downtown Holiday Inn Select May Be Sold,
Will Pursue Doubletree Brand Following a Renovation

By Josh Flory, The Knoxville News Sentinel, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 7, 2008 - A downtown hotel with ties to the 1982 World's Fair may soon change hands.

Bill Lyons, senior director of policy and communications for Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, said Monday that a New York firm has agreed to buy the downtown Holiday Inn Select at 525 Henley St.

"My understanding is they've reached agreement in principle and it's moving toward finality. But I don't think it's final yet," said Lyons.

Lyons said his understanding is that the New York firm plans to complete substantial renovations to the hotel and plans to pursue the Doubletree brand for the property.

Financial details of the negotiations were not available.

The hotel is owned by an organization linked to the Franklin L. Haney Co. of Washington, D.C.

Chris Ferguson of the Haney Co. declined to comment Monday. Haney, a native of McMinn County who got his start in real estate development in Chattanooga before expanding nationally, was one of several key developers of projects tied to the World's Fair.

In 2007, city officials met several times with representatives of the Haney Co., which was seeking sales tax and property tax abatements to subsidize the cost of extensive renovations to the property.

Partnerships or entities controlled by Haney built the 293-room Holiday Inn at a cost of $13 million for the 1982 World's Fair on the fair site fronting Henley Street. Haney, a one-time Democratic candidate for Tennessee governor, maintained controlling interest. The hotel, which includes a parking garage, is located across Clinch Avenue from the Knoxville Convention Center.

The hotel underwent $6 million in renovations in 2004.

It's a high-profile spot, but the hotel is a tricky property because it is connected to a state office building and to a city-owned exhibition center used for the World's Fair. Lyons said city officials have had informal discussions with the potential buyer regarding the proposed renovations.

The area also has drawn interest from local developer Nick Cazana, who has outlined plans for a mixed-use project across Henley Street from the Holiday Inn that would include a 200-room hotel. That project is on hold because of a lawsuit filed by an employee of the Holiday Inn Select alleging that the city of Knoxville's request for proposals violated a 2004 referendum that prohibits the city from providing funding for a new convention center hotel. Haney provided much of the funding for that 2004 referendum push.


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