Former TVA Credit Union Building to Become Hotel, Restaurants

October 15, 2021

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The former TVA Credit Union Building, located at the corner of Gay Street and Wall Avenue is finally getting the make-over that it deserved. A great example of a good use for its era, the building has long occupied a spot that needed to be activated. Simultaneous to its best use shifting because of the surge in downtown development over the last decade, banking also changed dramatically, requiring far less physical space. This led to the relocation of the TVA Credit Union to 31 Market Square, in July of 2020.

After a false start with a potential sale, the building was eventually purchased, in a deal brokered by Will Sims and Oliver Smith, by Avi and Ilana Zenatti, owners of several downtown properties, as well as Kopita. They have entered a 99-year lease with HD Patel, CEO of Ephant Group. The group is in the process of internal demolition to make way for a multi-use project they hope to open in the spring of 2023. I sat down with Mr. Patel to learn more about his plans.

The Ephant Group includes twenty-two properties in the area, mostly hotels which are under various flags, including Hampton Inns, Comfort Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Marriotts and Hilton, mostly in East Tennessee and eight properties are in the pipeline. The group is shifting focus a bit to hotels either without a flag or only backed by a flag. The first to come online with the new emphasis is Allegory in Gatlinburg.

Their focus is also shifting from the suburban market to the urban market, or the “secondary market to the primary market,” hence the interest in downtown properties. HD said there is more creativity in finding a building and making something special than there is in opening another branded hotel that is much like the last hotel. “Life is too short to only do one thing.” He also said that the market has shifted to boutique hotels.

The new hotel will be an independent hotel called The Sky-Lite Hotel, referencing the massive sky light at the center of the building, and he feels it fits the era of the building. He’s divided the project into those components and sees them as four separate projects. “The building has four elements, the basement, the first floor, the second and third floors, and the rooftop.”

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