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VOL. 38 | NO. 31 | Friday, August 1, 2014

Hotels sprouting in Murfreesboro’s Gateway Center

By Sam Stockard

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Residence Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn and Home2 Suites by Hilton are nearing completion or under construction in Murfreesboro’s Gateway Center.

-- Lyle Graves | Ledger

Rutherford County and Murfreesboro are leading a hotel boom in the Greater Nashville region, driven by the area’s overall economic growth and demand by youth athletic tournament participants and parents.

By the time hotel construction is completed on projects in Murfreesboro, the city could match the Franklin/Brentwood area for accommodations, officials say.

The flagship Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center opened six years ago, and three more upscale hotels are under construction on adjacent land in the Murfreesboro’s Gateway Center just off Medical Center Parkway and I-24 near The Avenue shopping area.

Residence Inn by Marriott is scheduled to open a 112-suite hotel in August or September of this year, and Hilton Garden Inn located next to it won’t be far behind.

A Holiday Inn, with 2,800 square feet of meeting space and a 4,500-square-foot restaurant, also is set to start construction in October and open in March 2015, followed by a groundbreaking for Home2 Suites by Hilton in spring 2015.

In the past two years, the number of rooms sold in Rutherford County increased 16.2 percent. And in 2013, an additional 32,468 room nights were sold as demand increased, according to Barbara Wolke, vice president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

In the first four months of 2014, the bureau’s portion of overall hotel tax receipts increased $9,000 over last year’s figures.

“We are looking forward to continuing this upward trend as new hotels bring additional supply to the area,” Wolke says.

Beyond prep sports

Murfreesboro plays host to boys and girls TSSAA basketball and volleyball tournaments, the TSSAA Spring Fling, is an Olympic-style venue for numerous high school championships, and an explosion in the number of youth baseball, basketball and soccer competitions.

The competitors, their parents and team staff take up a significant number of hotel rooms throughout the year, but conventional tourism also is increasing.

Since Embassy Suites opened in 2008, the area has seen several sold-out dates at local hotels because of overflow from conferences held there, according to the bureau.

Discussion has surfaced about another Marriott product locating in the area, but nothing is confirmed, Wolke adds.

Tommy Smith, of Stonegate Properties, which represents the real estate holdings of Knoxville’s Bill Gatton in the Murfreesboro Gateway area, said three more hotel companies are looking at sites, two near Embassy Suites and the other closer to town.

“We’re going to be well-cared for as far as having rooms to serve the larger meetings that will come to Embassy Suites and events such as Spring Fling,” Smith says.

Rutherford County has 51 lodging facilities with 3,800 rooms, including hotels and bed-and-breakfast facilities, all of the businesses that pay a hotel/motel tax.

“Upon the completion of the new hotels that are currently under construction, the number of rooms that we will have to offer will be comparable to the accommodations offered in the Franklin/Brentwood area,” Wolke notes.

Franklin/Brentwood outlook

Williamson County, which has 32 hotels that offer 3,992 rooms, isn’t exactly sitting still on hotel development.

Occupancies so far this year are up almost 10 percent and the average daily rate is 7 percent higher than last year’s, according to Kathryn York, director of sales for the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A Drury Plaza opened a year ago, and two major projects are under way, with Chartwell Hospitality building a Hilton Garden Inn in Brentwood off Franklin Road, and Vision Hospitality of Chattanooga constructing a Hilton brand Home2Suites with 105 rooms on Caruthers Road near the IRS building.

The six-story Home2Suites, which went through the Franklin Planning Commission, will cater to customers who are making extended stays for job training and corporate meetings, according to Drew Hibbard, director of investments for Vision Hospitality.

It also could offer electric car charging stations.

“There’s so much corporate demand growth in that market. It’s a really exciting market. It’s a beautiful place to locate a hotel,” says Hibbard, of the Franklin/Brentwood area.

He pointed out that local governments make sure infrastructure is in place to serve the business community, and office developments in the area drive the need for hotel rooms.

Vision Hospitality also plans to build a Spring Hill Suites by Marriott in Cool Springs, but that is in the early planning stages, adds Hibbard.

“Franklin/Williamson County is a rising market, and it just keeps getting better,” York said, noting as Nashville grows, so does Franklin, and trends show no signs of slowing down.

Rutherford County’s population jumped to an estimated 281,029 in 2013 from 262,206 in 2010, while Murfreesboro saw an increase to 117,044 last year from 208,755 three years earlier, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Franklin’s population inched up about 75 to an estimated 41,129 in 2013, while Brentwood saw a healthy increase to 40,021 in 2013 from 37,060 in 2010, Census Bureau figures show.

Most of Williamson’s growth is coming outside of the two cities with the population rising to an estimated 198,901 in 2013 from 183,182 three years earlier.

Comparable development

Vision Hospitality is building the Residence Inn by Marriott in Murfreesboro, in addition to the Home2Suites in Franklin.

“The demand drivers are a little different” in the Murfreesboro area, Hibbard explains. “A lot of it has to do with Nissan and expansion as well as with ambient growth.”

Rutherford’s growth has outpaced that of the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area for several years, he pointed out.

While the Cool Springs and Franklin area has five large office buildings that drive hotel needs there, Murfreesboro has a more diverse corporate atmosphere, he says.

“We were able to get that (Residence Inn) project done and priced at a good time,” Hibbard adds.

Says Stonegate’s Smith, “As the economy improves, we’ll have more and more development out there (in the Gateway).”

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