Vision dips toes into boutique sector
16 OCTOBER 2015 6:16 AM
With 32 branded hotels under its belt, Vision is making its move into the boutique hotel sector.
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee—Mitch Patel is no stranger to pushing the envelope.
Since developing his first hotel in 1996—the Homewood Suites by Hilton at Hamilton Place in Chattanooga, Tennessee—Patel, CEO of Vision Hospitality, has spent his time “doing things differently,” he said.
Take for instance his insight to add a rooftop bar at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Nashville Downtown @ the Gulch, which is now one of the top hotels in the entire brand system, Patel said.
“If you do those things, you can get a premium rate,” Patel said. “It’s given us a lot of confidence to do a boutique hotel.”
Enter The Edwin Hotel, the company’s first boutique hotel, to be located right in its backyard of Chattanooga, in the Bluff View Art District.
“It’s easier for me to write a story in our backyard, as opposed to Portland, Maine; or Portland, Oregon,” Patel said. “I’m not going to be as passionate about those communities as I am my own backyard. It is daunting, but at the same time it’s fun.”
Adding to the company’s nine hotels in the Chattanooga market, The Edwin will be a first of its kind with 90 guestrooms, a full-service restaurant on the ground floor, a rooftop lounge with a “prohibition whiskey-era” feel, a rooftop pool with cabanas and meeting space, he added.
Local builder The Strauss Company broke ground on the property in August, and the hotel is expected to open in early 2017, Patel said. The design architect is Chattanooga-based PV Design, and the hotel’s interior design will be led by The Gettys Group.
Vision now owns and operates 32 branded hotels as far west as Texas, but mostly concentrated in the southeastern United States.
While the company predominantly focuses on the select-service brands, Patel said he has always been intrigued by the boutique space.
“When I travel, I always look for a boutique hotel. As a hotelier, I enjoy staying at boutique properties. I get to enjoy a new experience, but I also learn something,” Patel said.
Patel has taken what he’s learned on the road and applied it to The Edwin. But the road to break ground hasn’t been without hang-ups.
“There’s a lot more you have to do for something like this than a branded hotel,” he said. “You really have to hire a branding company that helps you define your brand. That brand must be done first because that’s going to be the inspiration behind your architecture, food and beverage, and stuff like that.”
Plans for The Edwin were announced in August 2014, but Patel said he’s been thinking about the project far longer than a year.
“We’re still figuring some things out. It’s fun, but we need to be involved in what the ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs look like, what the keycards are going to look like, to bedding,” Patel said.
“We’re going to become better hoteliers going through this process. I’m already implementing things I’ve learned through this process to the 32 hotels we’ve branded,” he said.
Patel said there are “many more” boutiques on the company’s horizon, but no definitive locations to announce as of yet.
“We’d love other opportunities to be in other markets where we can write that story,” he said. “We are looking at other markets.”
What’s in a name?
It was important to Patel for his first boutique hotel to tell a story in a “non-obvious” way, he said.
That story starts with a historic bridge.
The hotel name celebrates Edwin Thacher who in 1891 led the development of the Walnut Street Bridge, which is located directly in front of The Edwin’s hotel site. It was built in the 1800s as a railroad bridge, and then it became a vehicular bridge, Patel explained.
In the 1970s, the bridge was going to be torn down, but the community rallied and saved the bridge and it was turned into a pedestrian bridge. The Walnut Street Bridge is now one of the largest pedestrian bridges in the country.
“We felt like the story needs to come from this beautiful bridge,” Patel said, adding that the bridge really serves as a community component, connecting people with food, art and culture, some of the main stays at The Edwin.
The hotel will partner with area merchants and artists to introduce guests and locals to all types of regionally sourced products, art, cuisine and outdoor activities, Patel said.