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Developer Marlon Phoenix Seeking Memphis City Approval
 for 298-room Hotel Across from FedExForum

By Tom Bailey Jr., The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 13, 2009 - A developer with experience in the hospitality industry is proposing an 11-story, upscale hotel at Linden and Fourth, across the intersection from FedExForum.

"We're in negotiations with a major hotel brand," said Marlon Phoenix, managing partner of Royal Phoenix Development LLC.

A big lure is proximity to the state's No. 1 tourist destination: Beale Street.

Phoenix had considered several sites around Memphis, but this one sits on a relatively big boulevard (Linden) and is in the Sports and Entertainment District.

"We feel as though the area is ripe for development," he said.

Meanwhile, Phoenix seeks approval today for his planned development from the Land Use Control Board.

The 298-room hotel would be on 2.8 acres that front Linden between Fourth and Turley.

Phoenix controls the property, which is owned by the church across the street, Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ. The site now is a church parking lot.

The 125-foot hotel would rise at the corner of Linden and Fourth, and a two-story parking garage would extend east from the tower.

Phoenix's plan proposes to convert, sometime in the future, the ground floor of the parking garage into retail space.

Phoenix, 55, has been working on the project for nearly three years. His last job in the casino-hotel industry was as vice president and general manager at the Isle of Capri in Coahoma County, Miss.

He moved to the area in the 1990s to help open the Fitzgerald Casino hotel.

Asked about financing for the project, Phoenix said, "We have an investment banking firm in New York that feels they are able to raise the funds to be able to pull this off for us."

His partners for the venture wish to stay in the background, he said.

"There's a lack of first-class hotel rooms in Downtown Memphis," Phoenix said. "You have the Westin (just west of FedExForum) with 203 rooms. Those are the newest rooms in town."

That Office of Planning and Development's staff will recommend approval of the planned development, but with a condition: The staff wants a more definitive plan for the eventual conversion to retail of the ground floor of the parking garage.

The land-use plan for the entertainment district discourages surface parking lots and encourages a mixed-use of retail, office, upper-story residential and hotels.

"Mixed-use buildings not only make the best use of a finite resource (land) but they also create the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week atmosphere that leads to a vibrant sports and entertainment district and meets the needs of the local residents and the tourism industry," the staff report states.

The report also expressed some concern that the hotel's height exceeds the 90 foot, or eight-story, limit for the district. (So does FedExForum, which is 139 feet tall.)

A nearby duplex could be cast in the hotel's shadow. However, the effect would be no worse than a permitted eight-story building, the report states.

The site is south of Beale Street's Robert Church Park, meaning heavy Beale Street traffic would have a clear view of the hotel, Phoenix said.

"Nothing would ever be built in front of us," he said.

The hotel would employ about 120 people, Phoenix said.

If everything goes well, he envisions the hotel opening in late May 2011.

Tom Bailey Jr.: 529-2388

Proposed hotel

Who: Marlon Phoenix, managing partner of Royal Phoenix Development LLC

What: Proposes 11-story, full-service luxury hotel with 24-hour room service, spa, pool, restaurant and meeting space

Where: Southeast corner of Linden and Fourth, across intersection from FedExForum and behind Robert Church Park

Next: The planned development goes before the Land Use Control Board today for approval.


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