Developers warn city leaders after Grand Hyatt hotel deal falls through

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 10:52 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis needs a convention center hotel, no one is disputing that fact, but building one is proving difficult.

The proposed Grand Hyatt that was to be part of the One Beale project downtown is now a no-go. And, the developer of the project has issued a warning to City leaders.

When the Grand Hyatt deal hit the skids last week, a war of words erupted between real estate developer Chance Carlisle and Mayor Jim Strickland.

Carlisle, the brother of Memphis City Councilman Chase Carlisle, blamed the city for causing a delay in financing a bond deal that cost him $5 million. The mayor essentially said “too bad” and told Carlisle the city coffers are closed.

“Economic development must be a strategic priority,” Carlisle told a group of reporters gathered for his news conference on Monday. “The city has now failed three times to build a convention center hotel.

“If there are other ways to get the $5 million, it would have to come from our local City of Memphis government, Shelby County Government, or the State of Tennessee. There are plenty of other agencies that could help if Memphis is a priority to them.”

Carlisle said when private investment went from $8.5 million up to $40 million, private investors reached their limit.

Mayor Jim Strickland said taxpayers are tapped out, too.

”City government cannot be an ATM for developers,” Strickland told reporters last Thursday at a groundbreaking for a new library in Frayser. “The city has offered more incentives for this hotel than any other project in our history. I hope it’s built, but we’re still working on other hotels.”

The 365-room Grand Hyatt at Beale and Front Street, with 36-thousand square feet of meeting space, was supposed to complement the new $200 million remodeled Renasant Convention Center.

One big reason the COGIC Convocation, with its 25,000 attendees, returned to Memphis this week after gathering in St. Louis for the last 11 years is because the Bluff City offers more hotel rooms now.

According to Memphis Tourism, Downtown Memphis now has 4,100 rooms, versus less than 3,000 the last time the COGIC faithful gathered here for their annual convention.

“I don’t dislike St. Louis, because St. Louis had a large facility that we can get everybody under one roof... and you got big hotels right Downtown around the convention center,” said COGIC Board Member Bishop Brandon Porter, “but, what we’re interested in is coming home. There’s something about Memphis, it’s home, and whenever you go home, you make sacrifices.”

Ted Townsend, Chief Economic Development Officer, and Incoming President and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce said in a statement:

“We know there is strong demand for more hotel rooms in Memphis. As a city, we must make sure we are doing everything we can to prioritize economic development that will unleash our growth potential. It’s important to have business leaders like the Carlisles engaging in this public process, and we will continue to support developments that move Memphis forward.”

Carlisle said though the Grand Hyatt deal may be dead, his drive to make Memphis a world-class city is not.

”We can’t stop,” he said. “We have a terrible tendency of just doing a little bit pretty slowly. And we’ve got to keep pushing the envelope to make sure we complete what we need.”

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