|By Errol Castens, Northeast Mississippi
Daily Journal, TupeloMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 13, 2012--OXFORD --Flowood-based Chamblee Co. plans to raze the Downtown Oxford Inn, promising its replacement will be a boon to guests, residential neighbors and nearby businesses.
If permissions are granted, the two-story hotel at North Lamar Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue will be demolished in December and replaced with a three- and four-story L-shaped structure. Plans are to open in spring 2014 under the Hotel Indigo brand.
Chamblee Co. bought the property in 2002 and decided the prime site deserves a boutique destination hotel rather than the "tired" 50-year-old building.
"The Square is the nucleus of north Mississippi," said the company's vice president, Luke Chamblee. "There's not a better hotel location in the Southeast."
In the new hotel, interior corridors will make guest rooms more quiet and secure. Other amenities include a rooftop patio, theater-style media room and business spaces and services.
A full-service bar will offer casual dining as a convenience for guests, not competition for nearby restaurants, Chamblee said.
"We are close to Lenora's, Proud Larry's, Soulshine, City Grocery and all the other places to eat on the Square," he said. "I want the retailers on the Square not to look at us as competition but as a partner in bringing people to downtown Oxford."
The new hotel's exterior would fit in a late 1800s Chicago streetscape, Chamblee said, with high windows, ground-floor canopies and old-brick facades.
"We want it to look like it's 100 years old the day it's finished," he said.
The new hotel's plan reduces its proposed footprint by one-third and increases its landscaped area fourfold while increasing guestrooms from 100 to 123.
Neighbor Jay Hughes said a more quiet and attractive hotel will be worth enduring its construction.
"The developers have done a phenomenal job of recognizing what's important to the neighborhood by giving us greenspace and separation," he said.
Developers say, however, that the plan's compactness and greenspace will require building to 42 feet, 7 inches instead of the standard 35-foot limit.
"Rejection of the height variance would impose a hardship on the goal of supporting these progressive neighborhood design features," architect Roger Pryor said in the project application.
City ordinances do not allow variances for economic hardship, but developers point to the existence of several nearby buildings that were allowed to exceed 35 feet. The Oxford Planning Commission will hear the request at its 5 p.m. meeting today.
(c)2012 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)
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