Search on for right development concept for downtown Cleveland Summit site

Posted 1/27/20

It could be the hottest ticket in town.A rooftop restaurant located at the former Cherokee Hotel, currently occupied by Cleveland Summit, is just one of  several proposals for a redevelopment of …

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Search on for right development concept for downtown Cleveland Summit site


It could be the hottest ticket in town.

A rooftop restaurant located at the former Cherokee Hotel, currently occupied by Cleveland Summit, is just one of  several proposals for a redevelopment of the landmark property located on Inman Street in downtown Cleveland.

Currently occupied by Cleveland Summit, a low-cost housing facility, the building has been proposed to be converted into a 65-room boutique hotel or residential space through private investment. The bottom floor would feature retail shops, as well as the outdoor restaurant on the top floor that would offer 360-degree views of the city.

The proposal is part of a master plan  developed by WSP, U.S.A., when it was selected by the Cleveland City Council in 2017 to create a vision to transform Cleveland's downtown into a livable and memorable district, as well as a destination for tourists visiting the Cleveland and the Ocoee Region.

The master plan, which was unveiled in May details a major facelift for downtown Cleveland, as it transitions from what was once a bustling industrial center, where textile and appliance companies churned out products for over a century, employing generations of workers, to a burgeoning district filled with walkable areas, green spaces, hotels and restaurants, as well as an event venue and a music amphitheater.

WSP, U.S.A. Senior Planning Supervisor Doug Delaney said the master plan consists of four core concepts: catalyst projects, downtown parking, a core revitalization and market study, as well as an Inman Street corridor design plan. 

"We think the best use of the building is to convert it back into a hotel, with about 65 rooms in it," he said. "We strongly recommend focusing on the ground floor and second floor and activating those uses, as well as the rooftop which will provide a unique visitor experience.”

Cleveland City Manager Joe Fivas told the Cleveland Daily Banner  several requests of proposals have been submitted to the city from developers interested in the property.

“We have several RFP’s out for the [Cherokee Hotel] and we’re showing it on a weekly basis to developers who are looking at what options are out there,” he said. “We've had interest. I we think we're on the right track. It's just about finding the right person that wants to invest in downtown and in Cleveland. We we hope that that there's a local connection and someone that can appreciate the history of the building.”

Fivas said diners in the proposed rooftop restaurant would enjoy vistas of the city, as well as the mountains.

“Many people haven't been on the top of the roof to see what the views are from up there. It is really beautiful up there. You have a full vista of the mountains and view of the downtown courtyard area and Lee University.”

Finding the right developer is key.

“It will be really special once once we can find the right people to help us,” he said

Last year, the City Council granted Fivas the authority to begin negotiations on strategic land acquisitions for areas that are discussed in WSP's Downtown Revitalization Report. This would include giving the authority to contract with land appraisers, environmental consultants and legal counsel to assist in these efforts.

He would then present any proposals and results of negotiations to the City Council for approval.

The RFP’s were released late last year and are due back to the city by 2 p.m. Feb. 21.

“We've already had some people take tours of the building,” Fivas told the Council in November.

Fivas said the city will consider mixed-use development proposals with restaurants and commercial retailers, as well as market-rate residential space.

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, during a speech at the Rotary Club of Cleveland luncheon on Jan. 28, said plans to rehabilitate the Cherokee Hotel, where 11 developers have expressed interest in the project, with one new idea not previously considered by city planners.

“I’ve seen three different variations of the hotel — a boutique hotel, residential space and an office space.”
“I had never thought about it as office space,” Brooks said.

The historic hotel, built in 1929, was founded by the Cherokee Hotel Company — a joint effort by T.L. Rogers and C.L. Hardwick, who raised $174,750 for its construction.

Groundbreaking for the seven-story structure took place in June 1927. The grand opening was held in March 1929.

The hotel closed during the 1960s and has been the home to the 79-unit Cleveland Summit Apartments since 1972. Cleveland Summit is currently building a 78-unit multifamily housing facility, which will be located on Smith Drive near the intersection of Huff Avenue S.W. in Cleveland.

According to a Banner article from 1929, the opening of the hotel signaled to the rest of the state Cleveland's rising stature as an economically vibrant city.

“A magnificent monument to Cleveland's civic enterprise, the Cherokee hotel, completed March 20, 1928, at a cost of $300,000, justly deserves the pride with which it inspires those who claim this progressive little city as their home," the Banner article stated. "Towering its seven stories above other business structures in the heart of the shopping district, it proclaims to Tennessee that another metropolis is within her borders."

The hotel was the hub of social activity during the mid-20th century, where organizations such as the the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and Lions Club regularly held meetings.

Moreover, the hotel was regularly filled to capacity when scores of University of Tennessee football fans flocked to the region to attend football games, as well as members of churches headquartered in Cleveland who visited the city for conventions and meetings.

“The hotel was packed during the Tennessee and Alabama football games," according to an article in the Banner. “There were not nearly as many hotels in the area and interstate highways did not exist yet, so the route between Knoxville and Alabama ran straight through the center of Cleveland. The Church of God and Church of God of Prophecy General Assemblies filled the hotel as well.”

During a recent  presentation made at a MainStreet Cleveland luncheon, Fivas said the ambitious project will be a challenge. Even with the excitement generated by plans to redevelop the historic landmark, Fivas said implementing such plans “isn’t going to be easy.”

“But I think we as a city are ready to make the decisions necessary to make that redevelopment happen,” Fivas said. “It's very exciting.”


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