|By Wayne Risher, The Commercial Appeal,
Memphis, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 11, 2010--Downtown's newest hotel celebrates history and puts an urban spin on a familiar brand, Courtyard by Marriott.
A second-floor meeting and event space for 300 people, the King Cotton Ballroom, references the old King Cotton Hotel.
The King Cotton, imploded in 1984 to make way for Morgan Keegan Tower, was previously the Devoy and the Elks hotels. It stood due west of the Courtyard site.
"Our main ballroom is the King Cotton in recognition of the significant events that went on at that property," said Atlanta hotel developer and operator Greg Averbuch. "Right next to that we have the Devoy Boardroom. That's a name you don't run across. We wanted to be a curator of that history."
The eight-story, 131-room Courtyard opened Feb. 1 at 75 Jefferson, capping a 15-month, $21 million project.
It's the first new hotel to open in Downtown since the Westin and River Inn in 2007 and one of few hotel projects moving forward in Greater Memphis during the economic downturn, industry consultant Chuck Pinkowski said.
The Courtyard is Averbuch's third out of four hotels planned around Morgan Keegan and across Main Street from Court Square. Next up for his Summit Management Corp. is an Embassy Suites on what's now a surface parking lot on Front Street.
Bounds and Gillespie Architects took Marriott's Courtyard prototype design and adapted it to the site. Their goal was to create spaces that would function well for business travelers, tourists and walk-up visitors.
In The Bistro at Court Square, a curvy counter does triple duty: coffee bar in the morning, wine and liquor bar at night, servicing cafe customers throughout the day. Seating ranges from barstools to communal seating around a granite slab tabletop to semi-private booths with flat-screen TVs. Plans are in the works for outdoor seating on Main Street.
For guest rooms, designers chose a single furniture piece combining desk, cabinets for clothes and a mini-fridge and coffee service.
Architect Danny Bounds said a typical Courtyard wouldn't have so many balconies. "We tried to take advantage of views in different directions by introducing a number of balconies, including wraparound balconies in two locations on the corners."
Pinkowski said it's radically different from early Courtyards, low-rise cubes with a courtyard in the middle. "It's not your grandfather's Courtyard," he said.
Averbuch wasn't done making connections to the site's past. A historical marker, removed for construction, will go back up on Main Street.
"This is the site of Piggly Wiggly's first store, the first self-service grocery in America," he said. "We'll have a graphic that will go in the business library, with a picture of that store in 1917."
After touring the property, Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford said, "I am genuinely impressed. It is truly a first-class property both in terms of its architecture and in terms of its interior space and amenities."
--Wayne Risher: 529-2874
Courtyard by Marriott
Address: 75 Jefferson at Main
Owner: Summit Management Corp.
Dining: The Bistro at Court Square
Contact: James Barton, general manager, 522-2200
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