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New downtown Memphis Westin Hotel

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A number of new hotels have opened or expanded in downtown Memphis in the past 3 or so years--the Madison, Marriott, Marriott Suites, Springhill Suites, Hampton, etc., but this is the first downtown Westin. Memphis is trying to land the NBA AllStar game for 2008 and one drawback has been the lack of downtown hotel rooms since most metro hotel expansion has focused on Tunica with its 8,000 rooms.

It's odd, too, that the focus of this article is on the adjoining parking garage. Still, good news. The site (Lee's Landing) is across from the Smithsonian Rock and Soul Museum and the Gibson Guitar Factory and just south of Beale St. and west of the FedExForum.

From http://commercialappeal.com/mca/business/a...3624090,00.html

"Hotel and garage join boom

Several minority investors will own more than 25 percent of $40 million Westin and 50 percent of $9 million garage

By Jane Roberts

March 16, 2005

Financing is complete on a 525-car parking garage and neighboring Westin Hotel on the doorstep of FedExForum, ushering in more construction Downtown and, for the first time in recent history, significant minority investment.

Developer Performa Entertainment Real Estate will break ground in May on a $9 million garage in Lee's Landing, now surface parking between Second and Third behind Beale Street.

The project is named for Lt. George W. Lee, the black Memphian who received the French Croix de Guerre medal for bravery in World War I and was the "political boss of Beale Street" from the early '20s to the early '50s.

"We named the project for him because he was such an important figure in the development of Memphis," said John Elkington, head of Performa.

Later this year Nashville-based Senate Hospitality will begin building a $40 million, 202-room Westin Hotel, backed by Memphis financiers J. R. 'Pitt' Hyde III and the Kemmons Wilson family.

The first floor of the garage will include 14,000 square feet of retail, including the Ground Zero Club, a Clarksdale, Miss.-based juke-joint and eatery partly owned by actor Morgan Freeman.

Elkington has promised investors a return in eight years they can't find on Wall Street.

"Beale Street draws five million visitors a year and with 141 events at the Forum and each drawing an average of 10,000, let's just say the investors are going to do real well."

"And then we have the 'Perfect Storm' weekends," said Janet Pfaff, vice president of operations at the Center City Commission. "With events all the same night at the Forum, Beale Street, Muvico, the Orpheum and AutoZone Park, we're bursting at the seams."

Symbolically, Lt. Lee lends his spirit to one of the largest black investments Downtown. More than 25 percent of the Westin and 50 percent of the garage will be owned by minority investors, including P. J. Benton, who owns Outback Steakhouses in Memphis, and Dr. Kenneth Williams, who owns Alliance Health Care System in Holly Springs, Miss., the only minority-owned hospital in the nation.

The idea to pursue significant minority investment belongs to Elkington, who drew a page from his work on Beale Street, which he designed to showcase Memphis music and a place where "black and white people would socialize together.

"We certainly achieved that goal," he said.

"We have $2 billion worth of construction going up Downtown and not $1 million is being done by minority owners," he said. "If we are ever going to increase the wealth in the African-American community, we have to have to develop an investment class there."

--Jane Roberts: 529-2512

Terrible rendering. Perhaps DallasTexan has the really cool ones available only to insiders:

16c1c_e.jpg

Site of the new hotel--parking lot with the tents and RV's:

medium.jpg

Aerial shot of the site (Lee's Landing):

original.jpg

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