New Hotel Planned for Site Along Clairemont Avenue

clairemont

After receiving a tip from a reader, DM confirmed with Decatur Asst. City Manager Lyn Menne that a new hotel is planned to be built on the land adjacent to the Courtyard by Marriott along Clairemont Road in downtown Decatur, just off the Square.  She provided this additional information about the project…

Vision Hospitality out of Chattanooga TN has plans to construct a 138 room hotel at 116 Clairemont Avenue adjacent to the Marriott Courtyard.   The proposed hotel will be similar to a facility Vision Hospitality developed in downtown Chattanooga that is very impressive.  The addition of these hotel rooms will allow us to attract some larger, regional conferences to the adjacent conference center.   The conference center is larger than the available hotel rooms at the Marriott can accommodate so the additional rooms at the new hotel make the center more marketable.  The Marriott hotel sales team supports the idea.   

They did request and receive a parking variance.  Our current parking requirements for a hotel are 1.25 parking spaces per room.  However, existing parking information from the adjacent Marriott showed that less than 25% of their allotted parking spaces in the conference center deck are used by hotel guests.  This number was confirmed by a check of similar hotel parking facilities in downtown Atlanta, Midtown and Buckhead.  Most hotel guests are arriving by transit or taxi and are not using a personal vehicle.   Keeping parking requirements down to actual use requirements allowed us to limit the size of the parking deck behind the building and assure that investment dollars could be spent on making the hotel facility as nice as possible.  

Photo courtesy of Parker Cross

95 thoughts on “New Hotel Planned for Site Along Clairemont Avenue”


  1. This is great news but I wonder which one of their Chattanooga projects is being referenced. Their downtown Hampton Inn seems to be the only one with any decent urban context. The rest look like the usual 2.5 star business traveller box.

  2. This is kind of disappointing to me. That’s a nice little green space, which we seem to have fewer and fewer of in Decatur.

    1. Yeah. It’s their orientation on the site that gives me pause, as it turns sideways and presents a really lifeless wall to the sidewalk. The photo of their Hampton Inn seems to do a much better job of activating street life.

      I assume our zoning would prevent them from not fronting the street. It’s just nice to see examples of folks who know how to work within those kinds of parameters.

      1. Really? It’s entrance shares a courtyard with the Children’s Museum and it has nice outdoor seating areas. I love that you can walk right through the back door to the baseball stadium.

        1. Two different hotels. The Hampton Inn is across 4th street from the Children’s Museum and the Ball Park. Hilton Garden Inn and Residence Inn are right beside the Children’s Museum and in front of the Lookouts stadium.

  3. This is a shame. I think there was an opportunity to build more downtown business in this location.
    Something that could draw more locals downtown. Especially considering there is a hotel next door.

  4. I’m all for drawing more locals downtown, but adding business to the tax digest without bringing in many cars sounds pretty good too.

  5. Great. More development. At the expense of green space and trees. Why?

    At this rate we are going to lose the Decatur charm.

  6. Ugh, another tall building on a valuable piece of greenspace. I can only hope they put a bar and restaurant on the top floor with floor to ceiling windows.

    1. Yep, and if we’re not careful Decatur will turn into the Buckhead and Midtown referenced in the email above. I’m beginning to think our leaders can’t say no to new development.

    2. “Ugh, another tall building on a valuable piece of greenspace.”

      “Great. More development. At the expense of green space and trees. Why?”

      Because someone else owns that valuable green space. It’s funny: Most everyone was up in arms about the possibility of homeowners being restricted from removing their green space (trees), but then want to tell commercial property owners what to do with theirs. Look, I’d be the first one to vote for the City acquiring some of the property in Decatur for parks, but expecting land to sit undeveloped because we’d prefer it that way is unreasonable.

      1. It’s not like it is a wasteland of old tires, trash, or even an existing parking lot. It’s a well kept greenspace with trees and grass.

        If it’s an eyesore, then clean it up. But it is anything but.

                1. Brianc seemed to be comparing this to the recent tree canopy issue in the city — if we all want to be able to do what we want with our trees, why should commercial owner not be able to do the same? (And also about some peoples’ desire to keep some commercial land undeveloped.)

                  Your response seemed to react to more of an urban blight point, which had not been mentioned in this thread before. I don’t think anybody is *happy* to see the greenspace go, but some may feel that this is a worthy development for the city. Your comment seems to suggest that this development would only be worthy if it was presently a “wasteland.”

                  1. Did anyone use that piece of green space for anything? Anything at all? I love green space as much as the next urban planner, but unless it’s being actively used, then it’s just an empty lot, regardless of how much grass is there.

                    1. Wasn’t it used for the Children’s Stage for the Book Festival? Not sure what else.

                    2. I think it’s designed for beauty but not for public use. (Like a front yard.) No benches, for example. Several times I have seen brides there, getting their photos taken.

  7. Not to be all raining on the commerce parade, but are hotels really an area in which we’re underserved?? And it’s going to be rightsmackdab next to the Marriott.

    😐

    1. Well, there’s only one hotel here (not counting the low-end motels on Church). I’d be interested in knowing how close the Marriott runs to capacity. Anecdotally, on two occasions we’ve had out-of-town friends who tried to get last minute rooms and they were booked.

      1. No, you make good points. I guess I just never think of little ol’ Decatur needing more than one big hotel, but if we’re aiming to make ourselves a true destination, then I s’pose needs must. Whenever we have guests, they stay at Hotel Libre, so I probably don’t have an unblinkered outlook…

        1. On those two occasions, our friends had to stay on our sleeper sofa in our office/guest bedroom. Incidentally, on one occasion they started to inquire at another lodging establishment that I won’t name, and the biggest rat they’d ever seen ran across their path to the lobby.

      2. Ditto. Downtown Decatur is woefully under-served WRT to hotels. The Marriott is usually booked when we have family or friends we’d like to book there. They end up staying well off the square and do the usual “hotel – car – other place – car – hotel” shuffle and don’t get to enjoy out beautiful city.

        Note that hotels bring guests which brings restaurant/bar revenue, all of which brings tax revenue, which helps our City. Hotels are also a pre-requisite for businesses. With CCP laying off over 50 engineers, we need all the help we can get replacing them.

        IMHO, Decatur’s long-term interests are best served by mixed development.

    2. I work in an office in downtown Atlanta. People hate coming from out of town to meetings and having to stay over in that wasteland. Now I suggest Decatur. They take MARTA from the airport, do whatever they have to do downtown, then take MARTA to Decatur where they eat, drink and be merry through the evening. Even better this is happening on a weeknight when most of us are not patronizing our restaurants. In the morning they have breakfast before they jump on the train. Now I know some of you will hate this, but to me it seems like a good way to address our most difficult problem which is paying for public services, especially the schools, on a residential-heavy tax digest.

      1. My wife works downtown and makes the same suggestion when out-of-town colleagues can’t book rooms within walking distance of the office. If they’re gonna have to commute anyway, she says to the mostly female co-workers, why not stay where they can walk to Cakes and Ale for dinner instead of Hooters ( a somewhat deceptive comparison, but also somewhat true)?

    3. The article mentions the additional hotel rooms and conference space will allow the hotels to compete for regional conferences. It isn’t so much that Decatur is underserved for existing demand, just that the owners think they can expand demand in a new area.

      1. Not only does the Marriott run at high capacity, but it is not uncommon for events to choose to go elsewhere because of limited capacity. This is not a zero sum game. We will host more conferences etc if we have a second hotel.

  8. To those of you who want the greenspace – it’s economics. Land in the middle of a vibrant downtown area is valuable because of the business something on it can generate. Step up with the big bucks to buy the area and you can preserve it.

    1. Agreed. Ask City leaders to acquire green space. Tell them you’re willing to pay more tax for it.

      1. Greespace is good for retail, it gives a place a sense of place. We do pay taxes to the downtown development authority. If they were thinking long term, they would use those funds to purchase some of the few green spaces left in the downtown corridor.

        1. But it isn’t just the cost of buying the property in prime locations, it’s the loss of tax revenue those properties could generate. That’s why I say to those who want more green space in town to be prepared to pay more taxes for it; you can’t expect property to sit undeveloped and effectively serve as “free” green space.

    2. Or the City can step in, buy it, and make it protected greenspace. Pretty soon the only thing we’ll see in Decatur is condos and hotels.

      1. So the city collects more taxes to cover the hefty price tag and then loses out on the potential tax revenue from an added (large) business?

        I’m assuming you were all for the Parkwood annexation as it added a bunch of greenspace at the potential cost of long-term revenue generation.

          1. I have no issue with higher taxes if directed towards appropriate uses. But I don’t believe “appropriate uses” include buying up vacant land (especially when it’s in the prime business district) just so it can continue to sit there vacant. We’ve got a fair amount of greenspace in Decatur and certainly no shortage of trees.

            And when you’re telling me not to assume, is that a rebuttal to my inquiry about Parkwood? To me, the two positions would seem contradictory, but I admit I could be misreading your posts. Apologies if that is the case.

          2. “If you don’t want higher taxes, don’t live in Decatur.”

            That is effing ridiculous. We all are willing to pay higher taxes, but that doesn’t mean we have agreed to write the city a blank check to accommodate your personal preferences. And most of us are happy that the city is trying to increase the commercial tax digest. Further, the current condition of that property is absolutely, one hundred percent irrelevant. It isn’t a park – it is privately owned land being developed in accordance with current zoning. P E R I O D.

            If anything, you should be happy the current and/or previous owners spent the money to maintain for as long as they did. Many (if not most) investors wouldn’t have spent a nickel on that property as its current landscaping and appearance didn’t add one cent to its value.

      2. The sky isn’t falling quite yet.

        The square itself, while it has very little “green” space, is a public, open space. As for grass and trees and living stuff, there is the little shady park next to the library. Not far down Church is Glenwood Park. There is also the toy park that, while not city-owned, is a great greenspace and a blessing to us parents with small kids.

        As for more greenspace, the City will indeed have to step up and buy, build, and maintain it. But, that take revenue, which means taxes, and hotels and the knock-on business they bring in is about as tax-dense as you can get.

        We don’t need another froyo, condo, or *gasp* pub. This hotel is a great idea.

        1. Don’t forget the cemetery, arguably the best green space in the city limits (as long your idea of “green space” doesn’t equal frisbee golf, beer coolers on wheels, outdoor movies, etc. Sorry, but you’ll have to move to the “concrete canyon” of Midtown if you want Piedmont Park.).

    3. On the plus side of Parkwood annexation is 3 acres of green space. I know its not downtown, but it’s something.

      If we want more space downtown, have there been any ideas of getting rid of the turn around parking areas next to Brick Store and in front of the courthouse?
      I would think another fountain, some more green, and space for outdoor tables, at least in front of Brick Store, would be a great feature.
      I can see keeping the turn around in front of the courthouse since I see a lot of news vans there during the day, and it’s a good place to drop off old folks and family while I find parking nearby.

      1. “If we want more space downtown, have there been any ideas of getting rid of the turn around parking areas next to Brick Store and in front of the courthouse?”

        That I could get behind, though losing the handicap spaces there might be a problem.

        1. maybe redesign the area so that we have shorter loop, same or more handicapped spaces, and 1-2 delivery spots, with the rest being green and patio space

  9. This is another example of the mentality driving Decatur leaders. For them, building materials are preferable to tree trunks and leaves; heat-reflecting concrete is to be valued over rain-absorbing grass; anything that increases the city tax base is to be pursued at the expense of open space. Their mantra is: BUILD.

    1. The city doesn’t own this land. It’s a private transaction. The only reason they might be involved is that they (read: we) own the conference center and this is a tool for making it more successful. Or is the problem that they could have bought it and preserved it and failed to do so?

      1. Scott – Why do we need another hotel in downtown Decatur? Unless you can show me statistics that the Courtyard is 95 percent occupied 7 days a week, it seems extremely unnecessary.

        I don’t really see how Decatur would be a conference destination. And why would we want it to be?

        1. 1) The Courtyard is booked to capacity quite often. 2) Something tells me the business knows better than you whether another hotel is needed (or will be profitable). 3) I’m guessing the business owners in Decatur would welcome conference goers who will spend money in the city.

        2. For the reasons mentioned in the article. Full capacity events that fill the conference center require more rooms than exist in the Marriott.

          As for why we’d want to be a conference destination, it’s because we the taxpayers own the conference center and I’d rather have a municipal profit center than a money pit.

          1. Or it’s just another example of this desire to grow, grow, grow. If we keep it up we’ll lose the charm of Decatur and be nothing more than other commercial districts in Atlanta. Have fun walking through a treeless downtown Decatur.

            1. Feel free to contact the owners of the lot & buy it. Then you can leave it as is. Personally, I would prefer that the lot is left “as is”. However, as long as the owners adhere to the zoning restrictions, they can build whatever they desire on their own property. Isn’t that their property rights?

              1. It absolutely is. No argument there. But just because they can buy it doesn’t mean it should be bought.

  10. Think of all the drivers who could be off the streets after the Beer Festival if this new hotel comes in…
    In seriousness, the hotel-when it was musty Holiday Inn- was overbooked for the weekend of our downtown Decatur wedding, and guests who didn’t plan far enough ahead had to miss out on a walkable weekend.
    The City can also use this extra hotel space to market Decatur for huge Atlanta events, such as Final Four, Super Bowl, AmericasMart, etc– Decatur would be a great place to stay for out of towners who want a walkable experience for their visit to the metro area.

    1. I also hope the City is coming up with a green space acquisition plan- is that on the Sustainability Committee’s agenda? I think a lot of residents would approve of a pot of money for preservation purposes in the City’s next bond package.

      1. We’ve got green space right here and the City—along with most people responding to this blog—want a hotel. Maybe our wise leaders will find a junk yard out on East Ponce to build a park and plant cheap Bradford pear trees around it. As for the notion that “as long as the owners adhere to the zoning restrictions,” everything is going to be all right, why should they? First, they can apply for a variance. If that fails, they can just ignore the rules, for it is always easier to get forgiveness than permission.

          1. Actually it’s all of that–it’s green; it’s a space; it’s private; and it’s well maintained. Once something is built; hard to go back to greenspace. Hence zoning and codes. But they have to be in place ahead of time, not retroactively.

            1. True, but when you use the term “green space”, you are implying it is somehow dedicated or reserved green space, which this property is not.

    2. I’ve had several conversations over the years with sports fans from out of town, here for a playoff or bowl game, that couldn’t find a reasonable rate in Atlanta and ended up here by chance. They have all felt lucky to find the place and wished they had talked other fans into staying here with them. They love Marta but often had plans to meet their larger groups in downtown Atlanta, so they weren’t eating here that much.

      With some smart marketing Decatur could bring in some very large fan groups.

  11. Decatur has an untapped hotel market.

    I co-organized an international conference in 2012 with 350-400 attendees. The Marriott wasn’t appropriate — the convention hall was big enough but all the immediate meeting rooms were hotel. Midtown hotels didn’t have a room big enough, and the downtown hotels could accomodate us, but were too big. And meetings this size wind up liking a walkable community with lots of cozy restaurants and bars at night.

    In the end, we wound up hosting the meeting at Agnes Scott and lodging people at the Marriott, but it put the idea in my head that the small-medium sized meeting market is ideal for Decatur. As as others have noted, the Marriott is often completely booked. If had a few million $, I’d invest in a decent hotel (comparable to the Marriott) in downtown Decatur ….

    As an immediate neighbor (I live in the Artisan), I too would miss the green space. But it’s been for sale for a long time, and a hotel is the kind of business that keeps our restaurants and bars full of customers!

    I worry a bit about parking. But I’ll save that for another post 🙂

    1. I’ve said for years that if I had the money I’d buy that property and build a medium-sized boutique hotel. It’ll do a killer business and it’ll benefit the local economy in general by making the conference center viable for bigger events. It’s a win-win in my book.

      1. You would do that instead if donating the land to make a bird sanctuary? You are obviously much more evil than I originally thought.

        1. my guess is most of those among us who tend to be philanthropically or idealistically inclined with others’ property and money are not now, nor have ever been self-employed—nor would they stomach the risks associated with being so.

          #not
          #nor

    2. I worry about the parking too, but I’m glad the City gave them a variance so there won’t be much added. Hopefully they are correct that most people will not be arriving via personal vehicle. Also, with MARTA increasing frequency during peak hours starting next month, maybe people coming from downtown and the airport will be more willing to make that train trip that requires switching at 5 Points.

  12. Of course I’ll miss that pretty green space and I’m grateful to the property mangers who have let people use it for community events like the children’s stage of the Decatur Book Festival. It’s charming, but it’s not mine.
    A Falcons fan wrote on the tourism blog that he can close his front door and arrive at his seats in the Dome within thirty minutes, via MARTA. http://visitdecaturga.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/visit-atlanta-stay-in-decatur-the-best-of-both-worlds/
    I think the Come to Atlanta/Stay in Decatur could be a boon to our town.
    Having said that, I’d like to see more parks, even pocket parks, throughout Decatur.

  13. I have family in town for this weekend and when I tried to book them at the Marriott Courtyard Decatur a few weeks ago it was booked up. They are staying instead in downtown Atlanta at the Ritz Carlton for roughly the same rate they would have payed at the Courtyard had rooms been available.

    This tells me that the Courtyard is doing very well and we need more hotel rooms in Decatur!

  14. For the instant naysayers, there is untapped demand here, which I’m sure their financial forecasts could confirm. How many of you have booked a room at the Marriott? My family has stayed there a couple times and it’s always busy. You’ll run into a lot of business people at joints like the BSP, Leon’s, etc. during the week. I attended a wedding there 2 years ago and my wife’s high school reunion recently (high school from another state!); as far as hotel event spaces go, it’s nice. I’m surprised it’s taken this long. 2 hotel options aren’t going to kill Decatur’s sense of community or charm.

    Between Marta access to downtown, midtown, etc. and proximity to Agnes Scott and Emory (hello Cliff Shuttle!), this is a great amenity and money maker for the community.

    While not completely covered like the residential areas, even downtown Decatur will be far from treeless with a development like this, no need for hyperbole. Many large green spaces exist within short walking distance. It reminds me of Chris Rock’s “We’re losing it, we’re losing it!” bit in 1999.

    @ Bulldog: “If you don’t want higher taxes, don’t live in Decatur.” – Is this a serious statement? With that mindset, how about if you want more funding for charter schools, pay for it yourself?

    1. Yes, it is. I’m quite comfortable with paying higher taxes in Decatur because we get a great product. Most of those taxes go to our school system, which has been one of the best in the state for the last 50 years.

      On charter schools: Move to a place where you like the school system. Don’t move there, complain about the school system, and then try to start or send your kid to a charter school. If we adopt that mindset, then five kids on the same street could go to five separate schools and never interact with each other. That would ruin a community. Just look at what happened to Avondale High School. Avondale Estates is a nice place, but none of those folks would send their kids to Avondale, a move that seriously hamstrung the school and the kids who could not afford to go to a ritzy private school. So the kids whose parents could afford it ended up at Woodward. And the kids whose parents couldn’t ended up at Avondale. And everybody suffered as result.

      1. I’m happy to pay high taxes too, because we get great services (especially with the school system) in return. But as has been discussed to death on this blog, lots of other people with school-age children have made the same choice with regard to Decatur, and the influx of students is putting strain on our school system. We can really use additional tax revenue from businesses. Annexing areas with businesses is one option, but it’s tricky and often contentious. Another option is allowing infill and upgrades to businesses within the current boundaries.

      2. Not everyone in Decatur has a 4+ bedroom house with 2.5 kids. My house has 2 bedrooms and no kids, with no plans to ever have any.

        Decatur hasn’t had a charter school system for 50 years. I’m happy to pay into public schools, but everything has its limit. Assuming costs have to continue to increase is absurd and continually dismissing anyone that doesn’t have kids here will only encourage people like me to leave, opening up more opportunities for families to move in. Actually, I know multiple households in Ansley Park with kids going to different schools, yet they all get along well and have a sense of community.

        We receive relatively decent services here for our high taxes, but you can’t complain every time another viable tax revenue option opens up, including a hotel. It’s revenue positive (rooms at the Marriott aren’t that cheap), isn’t increasing the number of residents or kids in schools, and will open up future options for residents, visitors, and the city coffers, via conventions, new businesses, etc.

  15. Just had to add my vote in favor of another hotel option for Decatur. We also don’t have room to host out-of-town guests and would love more space close to the square. As others have said, Marriott is often booked, even planning weeks ahead. We use the Holiday Inn Express on N. Decatur as an alternate and I am *really* hoping that’s not where brianc’s relatives saw the rodent! If so, our pull-out futon probably just got a lot more attractive to my parents.

    1. Ha, the Express is also our alternate, and I had same hope it wasn’t the rat location… Very glad for Brianc’s confirm it wasn’t!

    2. My parents PREFER the Holiday Inn Express. Can’t tell you why. Because it’s near Evans Fine Foods?

  16. “We use the Holiday Inn Express on N. Decatur as an alternate and I am *really* hoping that’s not where brianc’s relatives saw the rodent!”

    No, it wasn’t.

  17. As always, we’re on the cutting edge. Objecting to new residents is so 2013. Everybody knows that objecting to visitors just passing through is gonna be the next big thing.

  18. After reading this thread for awhile, I’ve decided that:
    – I’ll miss the green and I’m sympathetic to others who will miss it.
    – I know that my missing it has nothing to do with what will happen to it because I am not the owner and do not lust to be.
    – I’m glad it’s a boutique hotel and not a Walmart or Dollar General.
    – It will be good to have it there the next time there’s a gigando ice storm and the power is out for days.
    – I have also recommended Downtown Decatur on the MARTA line to visitors but they usually go for what the guidebooks list instead.
    – I would like a boulangerie in the lobby.

          1. Boy, this green space has gone downhill already! From boutique hotel to peek-a-boo-tique establishment.

  19. And the lesson for all lot owners in Decatur: don’t make it look nice, or the citizens will rise up and kvetch endlessly when you finally sell. Instead, just cover it in rubble and leave it as an endless eyesore. You”ll be a hero when you sell to anyone.
    Perhaps a thank you to pope and land for keeping that space so lovely for all these years would be appropriate.

  20. What’s going on with the lot between Bank of America and the parking deck? The groundbreaking was what, two years ago?

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