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VOL. 123 | NO. 227 | Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Courtyard Hotel Construction Picks Up for ’09 Opening

By Eric Smith

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ON THE RISE: An eight-story, 131-room Courtyard by Marriott will soon rise at the southwest corner of North Main Street and Jefferson Avenue. The $21 million hotel is being developed by Atlanta-based Summit Management Corp. It will be the company’s third hotel on the Main Street Mall. -- RENDERING COURTESY OF BOUNDS & GILLESPIE ARCHITECTS

The area surrounding North Main Street and Jefferson Avenue just got busier as construction finally started on the eight-story, 131-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel at the intersection’s southwest corner, on the edge of historic Court Square.

Atlanta-based Summit Management Corp., operating locally as THG Jefferson LLC, has been working diligently on the $21 million hotel for more than a year. The company in June 2007 unveiled plans for the property and in March filed its building permit, but dirt didn’t start moving until this month.

The full-service hotel, slated for completion in December 2009, includes a restaurant/bar, exterior seating on the Main Street Mall, an elevated outdoor fire pit and spa and balcony rooms with Court Square and views of the Mississippi River. As for the guest rooms, 40 percent of them will have two queen-sized beds and 60 percent will have king-sized beds.

“We’re very pleased to have construction commencing,” said Greg Averbuch, president of Summit Management. “We’ve been continuously working on the development. With a project of this magnitude, there’s lots of different stakeholders, and we’ve just been working through all the different details to get started.”

Brand recognition

One of the biggest delays in the process, Averbuch said, was the result of Marriott’s

establishing new brand initiatives after Summit was selected to bring a hotel to the site. Summit will be one of the first to adopt the reconfigured brand standards, which deal with the hotel’s public restaurant space.

“Courtyard traditionally was more of a sit-down restaurant style, and this incorporates a bistro type of restaurant and bar all incorporated into one updated space that has varying types of seating,” Averbuch said. “It has communal tables, it has booths with flat-panel TVs, it’s just an updated food and beverage offering.”

Bounds & Gillespie Architects is the architect on the hotel, with Architecture Inc. serving as the design consultant, and Flintco Inc. is the general contractor of record for the project. Construction financing is through First Tennessee Bank NA.

The Courtyard joins Summit Management’s other Downtown hotels along Main Street: the Sleep Inn, completed in 1996, and the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, completed in 2001. The SpringHill Suites included a renovation of the historic Kress Building.

Averbuch said all three hotels complement each other.

“The Courtyard is a brand that caters more to the business traveler, the Sleep Inn property provides a nice affordable alternative in Downtown and, of course, the Spring Hill Suites is an all-suite product,” he said. “So they give all users of hospitality – whether they be groups or business travelers or leisure travelers or conventioneers or government travelers – different products to choose what will best meet their needs.”

City sidewalks

Yorke Lawson is principal of CGI & Partners and Court Square Center LLC, the development partnership renovating the Lincoln American Tower and Lowenstein Building, and also building a new apartment building called CA2.

All of those properties are in Court Square, directly across from the Courtyard’s construction site, and Lawson said the hotel will be a worthy addition to the neighborhood.

“We enthusiastically welcome it with open arms,” Lawson said. “We know the owners, and they have described it to us in detail, and we’ve kind of watched it with great interest. What a difference a year makes. That is going to be a vibrant, active Downtown street corner. We see it as very exciting for this end of town.”

Jeff Sanford, president of the Center City Commission, agreed that the hotel is a great addition to this corner of Downtown, which is undergoing a $3 billion renaissance in new development.

“Coupled with the mixed-use Court Square Center project across the street from the new Courtyard, the corner of Main and Jefferson is bursting with new development,” Sanford said. “Looking at that corner, you wouldn’t know the economy had slowed down at all.”

It should get more activity in the coming years. Summit Management owns the lot due south of the Morgan Keegan Tower along Front Street, and plans to bring a 20-plus-story building to include a 150-room Embassy Suites Hotel plus 90-100 residential units.

Averbuch said the start date of that project is at least 12 months out, but it’s further proof of the area’s draw.

“I think the work that has been done there and that is coming sets the stage for Court Square to be the vibrant center of the city,” Averbuch said.

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