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VOL. 38 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 07, 2014

Touches of Nashville highlight downtown hotel renovations

By Hollie Deese

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The centrally located Hilton Nashville Downtown, built in 2000, overlooks the Music City Center.

-- Submitted / Thomas K. Gatlin

When the Omni Nashville opened a few months ago, embracing the best of Nashville in its food, design and staff was a key component in the hotel’s plan.

No matter where the visitor started their journey, from Japan to Jersey, Omni wanted each traveler to know they were firmly planted in Music City.

“Our mantra has always been local color,” says Tod Roadarmel, director of sales and marketing for Omni Nashville. “Of our 60 hotels, there are no two that are alike. We don’t want to be like another brand where no matter if you stay in New York City or Chicago or St. Louis or Los Angeles, it is the same hotel. We want to be totally different. When guests wake up in the morning, we want them to know that they are in Nashville, Tennessee.”

At Omni, that means pimento cheese sandwiches, shrimp and grits, and a biscuit bar at their Southern-infused Kitchen Notes restaurant and an abundance of Middle Tennessee products, including Olive & Sinclair, Goo Goo Clusters and Lucchese Boots in their Five and TENN retail venue.

An on-site Bongo Java supplies the coffee, and more than 50 percent of the art on the walls is from Nashville artists, with nearly 70 percent art made in-state.

“A vast majority of everything we buy in the hotel in our culinary areas is purchased right here in Middle Tennessee,” Roadarmel says. “Embracing the local community was very important. We’re connected seamlessly with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Hatch Show Print. Our retail store carries anything and everything Middle Tennessee. From Gibson guitars to Goo Goo Clusters, when you’re here, you know that you are in Nashville.”

In addition to the new Omni, Nashville’s existing hotels have incorporated a number of local elements into their renovations. Renaissance Nashville Hotel’s completed $20 million guest room renovation includes Hatch Show Print murals in each bathroom. At the Sheraton, black-and-white photos portray iconic Opry performers.

More than looks

While a Hatch Show Print immediately screams “Nashville,” some things are not quite as in your face.

The Hermitage Hotel embraces local in almost every sense, continuing to grow their Double H Farms brand, which is one of two farms owned by the hotel. The Dickson County property is used for raising the hotel’s cattle, and Executive Chef Tyler Brown and Managing Director Greg Sligh experiment with different sustainable farming practices and currently supply to two of Nashville’s local-focused restaurants, Husk and Lockeland Table.

The Hermitage Hotel was the only hotel in the state to receive five stars on the 2014 Forbes Travel Guide for amenities like a pillow menu for the perfect night’s sleep (buckwheat or memory foam?), specialty pet beds for traveling animals, and a minibar stocked with local Olive & Sinclair chocolate and Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

Its restaurant Capitol Grille received four stars on the guide’s comprehensive ratings and reviews system of hotels, restaurants and spa.

One other hotel, Hutton Hotel, and its restaurant, 1808 Grille, received four.

“We really try to be on top of everything,” says Steven Andre, general manager of the Hutton Hotel. “When a chair looks bad, we don’t have to wait for 20 chairs to look bad to replace it. We replace the chair. Guests spill, things tear, things rip. So we really try to be much better about maintaining the asset so we don’t have to go through one of those huge renovations.”

Nashville’s draw

It only seems natural to embrace the vibrant downtown culture that has practically exploded in the downtown core in the last decade, a big bonus for existing hotels.

“Location, location, location - that has always been one of our strongest points,” says Melanie Fly, marketing director for the Hilton Nashville Downtown.

Perhaps much of the credit should be given to the success of Nashville’s city-wide branding initiative to grow the image of Nashville as Music City, launched by Butch Spyridon in 2006. There is no denying downtown has since transformed from a place locals avoided to a hotbed of local culture that has national appeal.

“I’ve been in Nashville for 25 years I remember the times you wouldn’t go to downtown Nashville after dark,” Roadarmel says. “But to see this renaissance that Nashville has gone through makes me very proud to be a Nashvillian.”