|By Gerald Witt, The Knoxville
News-Sentinel, Tenn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 04, 2012--Knoxville City Council approved $600,000 in incentives Tuesday night for a hotel owner to redevelop a hotel near the University of Tennessee into a Hilton Garden Inn.
Plans for the project and its financing will next go to the Industrial Development Board.
Nick Lakha, president of Atlanta-based Paramount Hospitality Management, which is leading the development, said that the 8-1 vote by City Council was support for his work to rehab the former Days Inn Campus, something he called "an eyesore."
Councilman Finbarr Saunders voted no after lengthy debate.
"Can I change my vote?" he asked after hearing how his colleagues voted.
Lakha said construction is expected to start by summer on the $16 million project. He hopes the 112-room hotel will open by the middle of 2013. An expected 150 construction jobs will be created, with 40 new full-time hotel jobs.
The incentive is called a five-year payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, incentive. That means that Lakha's group will pay the current bill of $40,000 in city and county property taxes at the hotel, and after five years that bill will increase to $160,000.
The Hilton Garden Inn on Lake Avenue is expected to fit in with the upcoming redevelopment of Cumberland Avenue next to UT campus.
"We think it would help us kick-start the Cumberland Avenue project," said Bob Whetsel, Knoxville's director of redevelopment.
In other business, City Council voted unanimously to refinance bonds worth $95 million that's expected to save $1.26 million in bond payments each year.
Council also approved four ordinances that enable more options for the city to fight blighted properties and a resolution to go to TVA to ask the public utility to revisit its policy for cutting trees.
"We want to heighten your sensitivity to the issue," Saunders said.
(c)2012 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services