$40 million Hilton planned for Chattanooga Bank Building

·4 min read

Jan. 13—An effort to turn the 95-year-old former Chattanooga Bank Building downtown into a hotel is back on after a tough couple of years in the hospitality industry, the owner of the high-rise said.

New plans call for remaking the historic, 10-story tower into a boutique hotel with a Tapestry Collection by Hilton nameplate, said Robert Lubin of R&R Capital Funding of Herndon, Virginia.

A $40 million makeover of the vacant building at Market and Eighth streets could start in August or September, with a projected opening in 2023, he said in a telephone interview.

The hotel would have about 140 rooms and offer a full-service product, Lubin said.

"You can't have cookie-cutter rooms," he said about the Tapestry brand. Lubin said his group is working on an application and plan that will satisfy Hilton.

Emily Mack, president and chief executive of the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group River City Co., said the former bank building is one of the most architecturally significant structures in the city center and all of downtown.

"As the building has long stood vacant, River City Co. would be excited to see an adaptive reuse to breathe life back into it," she said in an email.

Because the old building has no parking on the site, which stretches the entire block from Market to Broad Street, the developer said he's working with the city for a solution.

He declined to say what that might look like. But in the past, valet parking was discussed, along with the use of spaces in a nearby lot or garage.

Like so many other historic buildings, Mack said, the tower was designed and constructed without on-site parking. Off-site parking would need to be identified to accommodate the new activity, she said.

The last plan for the bank building envisioned by Lubin was an Aloft hotel in 2018.

But Lubin said the coronavirus hit, and another Aloft was later slated to go up in the city. Chattanooga-based Vision Hospitality Group teamed with shopping center operator CBL Properties to put up an Aloft last year at the former Sears space at Hamilton Place mall.

Also, Lubin said, Aloft's parent company was bought by hotel giant Marriott and he thought there was already a lot of that company's product in Chattanooga.

Lubin said his company is now co-partnering with another entity out of Milwaukee to develop the bank building. He said the development group feels strongly about the Chattanooga market.

"Chattanooga is a great city," Lubin said. "It's a great tourist destination."

He said the hotel would offer something "a little bit different" for Chattanooga and serve as "a nice addition."

The 10-story building was constructed to house Chattanooga Savings Bank in 1927 and modified when that business was absorbed by First National Bank. After the bank closed, the building housed dental, medical, Tennessee Valley Authority and other offices.

Tenants were asked to leave in 2009 when another developer proposed a Crown Plaza hotel and condo project, but that work never got off the ground in earnest.

In 2014, Lubin's group announced it was financing the purchase of the hotel with the help of a federal initiative set up about 30 years ago called the Immigrant Investor Program, or EB-5. The program allows foreigners to invest money and create jobs in the United States in exchange for green cards allowing them to become permanent residents.

Work was to start on a hotel in 2015, but nothing happened.

Over the past decade, a number of boutique hotels have opened in downtown Chattanooga.

Vision Hospitality built a 90-room hotel known as The Edwin near the Walnut Street Bridge. At Market and King streets, a four-story, 102-room Moxy Hotel was raised by locally based 3H Group.

In addition, the former 300 Apartment Building at Pine and Sixth streets became a Hotel Indigo, and the Clemons Lofts apartments at Eighth and Chestnut streets is now a Bode boutique hotel.

Last year, Vision opened the Kinley Chattanooga Southside hotel across from the Choo Choo.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTPF.

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