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VOL. 123 | NO. 31 | Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hotels Proliferate Near Wolfchase Mall

By Andy Meek

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Judging from all the shops, restaurants and retail centers that surround Wolfchase Galleria mall, it would appear that consumers clearly love spending money in that commercial corridor. But so does another group of people: hotel developers.

Bhavesh Patel is part of the latest hotel development team to see dollar signs on empty lots east of the mall, where several hotels either already have been built or are in the planning and early construction stages.

Patel's partners will go before the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board today to seek approval for their own project, a three-floor, 67-unit hotel.

The group is seeking a special use permit from the LUCB to build the hotel on 1.73 acres east of the mall. The Bray-Davis Firm LLC is representing the developers.

No spilling of beans

Measuring 16,400 square feet on the ground floor, the new hotel would sit on a currently vacant patch of land a few lots east of Wolfchase and directly across New Brunswick Road from an existing O'Charley's restaurant. A brand for the hotel has been chosen, but Patel declined to reveal the name of it yet.

Plans are still in the works for his group's project, he said, and he is trying to maintain a competitive edge over other hotels planned for the area until the last minute.

"It's going to be a really nice hotel," he said. "There's a lot of things we're doing that's going to be different from a lot of other hotels, so I don't want to spill the beans, so to speak, just yet.

"There's a Holiday Inn coming a couple of lots over from us, closer to the Wolfchase mall, and we don't want to give too much of a heads-up on what we're doing. But really, that area is going to be turning into a hotel destination there."

David Bray, an engineer at Bray-Davis LLC, said the partners behind the new hotel project want to start moving dirt as soon as they can.

"We go to (the LUCB today), and they're going immediately after that to the City Council, which hopefully will happen some time in March," Bray said. "They want to get started as early as time will allow, and that's probably late April, early May."

Plenty of rooms

Hotels already in that area include a Fairfield Inn & Suites and a SpringHill Suites. Wolfchase Hotel Associates LLC is building a 130-plus-room Holiday Inn near the mall on a three-acre site the company bought last year for $980,000.

The latter property was bought under the LLC name by Wilson Hotel Management Co. Inc., which is run by three sons of Holiday Inn founder Kemmons Wilson. That hotel is expected to open some time in early 2009, and construction is being handled by Pride Construction LLC.

"My guy putting in the first floor has started, and we expect to be finished up around January or February of next year," said Dean Stage, one of the partners at Pride Construction. "It'll be six stories, it'll have an indoor pool, a restaurant and nice meeting rooms - real nice meeting rooms."

James O'Brien, executive vice president of Wilson Hotel Management, told The Daily News shortly after his company bought the land for that hotel that it will have 133 rooms and about 1,800 square feet of banquet and meeting space. He said it will also house Kem's Restaurant, named after the Holiday Inn founder.

As of late 2007, the Wolfchase-area Holiday Inn was part of more than 340 Holiday Inns currently in the pipeline around the world, according to information from InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns the Holiday Inn brand.

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