Room at the Inn 

A proposed downtown hotel could help Memphis appeal to convention planners.

Only five Memphis hotels boast more than 300 rooms, and just two of those — the Peabody and the Marriott — are located downtown. Other luxury hotels downtown have fewer than 200 rooms.

But a proposed 11-story, 298-room hotel at the corner of Linden and Fourth may increase the city's odds of attracting large business meetings and conventions. The county Land Use Control Board approved the hotel earlier this month.

"We're trying to provide a luxury environment that will compete with the Peabody," says Marlon Phoenix, managing partner with Royal Phoenix Development. "We'll have plenty of meeting space, and, in the ballroom, we'll be able to hold events for at least 600 people."

Phoenix says the company is still in negotiations with a couple of four-star hotel brands. He hopes the hotel will open in the spring or summer of 2011. The proposed location is currently a parking lot owned by the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ.

John Oros, executive vice president of the Memphis Convention & Visitors' Bureau, says more downtown hotel rooms are essential to attracting large conventions to Memphis.

"Convention planners want to avoid shuttling, and they want to avoid having to sign 10 or more hotel contracts," Oros says. "The trend in the industry is going for the large mega-hotel complexes, like Opryland in Nashville. They prefer to have their people under one roof."

The proposed hotel project also will include upscale retail on the ground floor, though Phoenix has yet to negotiate with any retail companies.

Not only will a hotel at Linden and Fourth attract more conventions to the city, Phoenix thinks it also will help to revitalize a blighted area of downtown. The 11-story hotel would be located south of FedExForum, in an area where empty parking lots and rundown buildings, such as the abandoned Chisca Hotel, dominate the landscape.

"We're really trying to make an effort to redevelop in that area," Phoenix says.

With the economy still suffering from the recent downturn, it might seem like a strange time to build a large, luxury hotel, but Phoenix disagrees.

"Things are ripe now for development," Phoenix says. "We hope to have this project open at a time when there's an upswing as opposed to waiting for an upswing to build the hotel."

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