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VOL. 124 | NO. 178 | Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kumar Beats Drum For Lamar Ave. Hotel

By Andy Meek

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Local cab company owner Jay Kumar has tweaked the site plan for an upscale motel he’s developing along the Lamar Avenue corridor in South Memphis.

It’s a project he’s had on the drawing board for at least three years, and he’s spent much of that time selling his concept to area residents and public officials and lining up the necessary approvals. His latest trip before a government body happens today.

Kumar is taking his revised site plan for the two-story Vista Inn & Suites before the Memphis-Shelby County Land Use Control Board, which meets today at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.

Necessary tweaks

Kumar’s original plan had the motel facing Dunn Avenue with no parking in the front. Parking and a swimming pool were accessible via an interior road through the property.

“In the revised site plan, they pushed the building up to the street, with all their amenities in the front yard or sort of in the front yard,” said Brian Bacchus, a principal planner in the Land Use Control Section of the city-county Office of Planning and Development. “It’s a much better prototype motel than what they had proposed earlier.”

Schematics for the building show a canopy in the front where guests will arrive and depart. Kumar, the owner of cab companies Metro Cab and Advantage Cab, said his new plans include a breakfast bar in the motel lobby, as well as a business center and meeting room there.

A swimming pool will be visible from Lamar, and landscaping will surround the property. The façade will be a mixture of brick, stone and stucco.

Hard sell

Kumar’s attention to that kind of detail reflects the lengths he’s gone to pursue the motel project, something he began in 2006. He had to pitch the idea to various groups along the way, including neighborhood groups and wary Memphis City Council members who worried about the addition of a motel on Lamar where others have attracted crime and become eyesores.

The LUCB first said no to Kumar’s plan in 2006. They approved a modified version last year. Kumar assured City Council members, who also approved the project last year, that he chose the site at Lamar and Dunn because of the numbers.

It’s between 7.5 and 8 minutes from several major destinations or neighborhoods including Memphis International Airport, Midtown and Downtown.

He built a business plan around charging rates of at least $85 a night. Kumar has offered to provide security at the hotel from dusk to dawn that also will watch over the entire block. And he’s said the project’s more than $2 million price tag means he’s committed to a quality development in the area.

Lining up the necessary financing, meanwhile, is the other major piece of the development.

“It’s been difficult with the recession,” Kumar said. “Last summer, they kind of stopped all hotel loans across the country. But we’re talking with a couple of different out-of-town banks right now.

“We’re hoping to get something soon. The banks have become a little more lenient within the last 30 days. In the last six months, it’s been a nightmare trying to sell this plan to a bank.”

PROPERTY SALES 157 157 10,093
MORTGAGES 161 161 11,107
BUILDING PERMITS 229 229 22,402
BANKRUPTCIES 54 54 6,365