Hotel Indigo Memphis Readies Slice of Authenticity for 2019 debut

Main Photo: The Hotel Indigo Memphis, just prior to opening in January 2019

Date: February 2019

Location: Court and B.B. King Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Name: Hotel Indigo Memphis

No. of Keys: 119

Seller: The project used the structural bones of an early Holiday Inn and former Econo Lodge at Court and B.B. King Boulevard.

Buyer: Atlanta-area developer 3 P Partners has worked with Memphis architects brg3s and contractor SouthCore Construction on the renovation, which is winding down, but not completely finished. Hotel management is with Expotel Hospitality Services.

Nothing says retro like a classic 1960s motor hotel that has been re-purposed as Memphis’ first Hotel Indigo.

A $15 million conversion of the unlikely historic landmark into an upscale, boutique hotel.

The project has created a virtual time capsule using the structural bones of an early Holiday Inn and former Econo Lodge. Glass walls have been added to enclose the 55-year-old lobby and breezeway that connected a six-level parking garage to outdoor elevators and the street.

“Hotel Lobby” in stencilled lettering marks the spot where guests checked in to the Econo Lodge, which was built in 1963 as Downtown’s first Holiday Inn.

The former guest check-in area now holds a lounge with casual seating, big screen TV, laptop-ready end tables and electronic charging stations. It’s part of a larger, open-floorplan lobby that hides nothing from view.

A second seating area centres on an Elvis-themed Rock-Ola jukebox. The guest services desk resides beneath a large, circular LED light. And the hotel’s business centre is in the centre of things, a long countertop overlooking a walkway between parking garage and street.

“The furnishings, the building itself, it’s all retro,” said general manager Patrick Jordan. “We’re hitting on all cylinders to give people a real Memphis vibe.”

The new Indigo joins more than 94 properties in the Indigo lifestyle hotel niche developed by InterContinental Hotels Group, which includes Holiday Inn, the Memphis-born lodging chain founded by Kemmons Wilson in the 1950s.

“No two Hotel Indigos are alike,” Jordan said. “Each hotel is a representation of the community it’s in. This will be a Memphis neighborhood hotel with the benefits of an international brand and reservation system behind it.”

Kemmons Wilson put his first Holiday Inn in Downtown Memphis in a building that was originally conceived as an office and parking annex for the now-vacant office tower the Sterick Building next door.

That’s why this Hotel Indigo has an unusual configuration. At street level are the lobby and a restaurant space, which is still under renovation for a new restaurant by Memphis chef Ryan Trimm. The restaurant should open in February, followed later by a lounge in the basement.

Parking is on floors 2-7, and 119 guest rooms are divided among floors 8-10. Half the rooms face the surrounding city-scape and half face a courtyard, where a pool and cabana bar occupy the eighth floor.

A sliding door of translucent white glass separates bedroom from bath, which includes a walk-in shower with a rain forest-style shower head and Aveda brand soap and toiletries.

The rooms have WiFi supplied by high-speed fibre optic lines, an array of power and USB plugs built into bedside tables and a bar area with Keurig coffee maker. Smart TVs enable guests to use their own Netflix, Hulu and other accounts.

The décor is musical in theme. Behind the headboard, the wall is covered by an extreme closeup of a recording studio microphone. Photos of vinyl records on a shelf and a radio tuner hang on a wall. Wall graphics in the first floor fitness center are radio dial numbers.

Jordan said the lobby Rock-Ola, one of only 99 made in the Elvis Presley motif, will be stocked with CDs made in Memphis or by artists with Memphis ties. When the jukebox isn’t playing, the blues will play on the hotel sound system.

A mural by Memphis artist Brandon Marshall in the parking garage depicts the history of Memphis music.

The hotel’s 50 employees will share their favorite Memphis artists with guests. “Employee nametags will list the employee’s favorite Memphis artist. Mine happens to be Otis Redding,” Jordan said.

It’s a far cry from the Holiday Inn or even the Econo Lodge, which operated at the location, 22 North B.B. King Boulevard, until a wave of new hotel development headed toward Downtown, making the site prime for redevelopment.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the developer is using historic preservation tax credits as part of the financing package.

Architect Charles “Chooch” Pickard of the Memphis firm ArchInc prepared the National Register listing, which outlined the building’s connection to Holiday Inn and a pioneering structural element that was used in its construction.

Wilson worked with developer Herbert Humphreys and architect Merrill G. Ehrman to create the rooftop hotel. Ehrman and partner Max Furbringer’s firm’s notable designs included the Mid-South Coliseum, Graceland and the Overton Park Shell.

The building, developed as the Sterick North Garage & Hotel, was built with pre-stressed concrete structural T-beams that were able to span more distance and support more weight than a previous design. The beam was called the Lin Tee after its inventor, Chinese-born engineer Tung-Yen Lin.

Jordan has his own tie to Holiday Inn, which was headquartered in Memphis until it was bought by British brewing giant Bass PLC in 1989.

Jordan is on the board of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South and the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management at University of Memphis.

Because the project is a historic rehabilitation, original features were retained, including concrete ceilings that contain the imprint of plywood forms used in construction, exposed piping and utilities and balconies on each guest floor, facing Court Square and the Mississippi River.

A playful touch is revealed by room numbers. They’re enlarged images of the room number tag that was attached to hotel keys in the old days.

Price: Conversion US$15m

Price per Key: Land cost plus US$126,050

THPT Comment: IHG’s Indigo has done it again and kept faithful to it’s brand standard – build hotels that are totally true to their location! The management company – Expotel, interestingly is the same as the current owners of THPT started in the UK in 1972 as the first corporate hotel booking agency.

First Seen: Daily Memphian

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