Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Former Mid-Century Holiday Inn to be Reborn as Boutique Property in Atlanta

Atlanta-based Paces Properties announced last week that it is teaming with Austin-based hospitality company Bunkhouse Group to breathe new life into the one-time Holiday Inn Central overlooking the Buford-Spring Connector near Piedmont Heights.  The hotel, which City of Atlanta records indicate was built in 1968 (a portion of the hotel was built in 1964) and sits on 4.79 acres, has operated under a number of hotel/motel names over the years, but currently operates as an extended stay Intown Suites.  

Paces Properties, the team behind Krog Street Market and the upcoming Atlanta Dairies project, among others, purchased the Intown Suites property in mid-2016 for $8 million, according to Fulton County tax records. 

While Paces declined comment on how much they plan to invest in the renovation of the property, the goal is to create a hotel inspired by the building’s mid-century aesthetic. The work will undoubtedly involve peeling back elements added to the facade over the years to reveal the original mid-century design.

Despite the fact that AMC's award winning series Mad Men, which many credit with the renewed interest in mid-century furniture and design, concluded in 2015, there remains tremendous interest in the era.

Legacy Ventures, an Atlanta-based hospitality company, renovated and re-branded an historic downtown hotel as The American Hotel Atlanta Downtown - a DoubleTree by Hilton last fall.  The hotel, which was built in 1962, was revamped with chic, mid-century décor for a "thoroughly modern yet retro design."

According to a press release, the style of the revamped Intown Suites property will cater to “creative professionals, food and music connoisseurs, and corporate business travelers looking for something design-centric, forward- thinking, and community driven.”  
The pool at Austin Motel, another Bunkhouse property 
Current plans call for conversion of the property into a 162-room hotel with 48 commercial studio spaces.  Last June, Paces sought a special exception to MRC-2-C/BLO's requirement of 377 parking spaces.  (The property does fall within the BeltLine Overlay District.)  Paces explained that their plan to supply 211 parking spaces should more than satisfy the needs of the renovated project, in large part due to the reduction in the number of hotel rooms.  The proposal then was for 200 hotel rooms (down from 227), and now the room count has been further reduced.  

We inquired with Paces Properties about the change in room count and were supplied the following statement.  

"The numbers will change slightly as with any project due to the design process. They are in the midst of reconfiguring the layout and will know more after the design is complete."

The June document also reveals plans for an 8,300 square foot restaurant.  Paces declined comment on exactly what or where the restaurant would open but did seem to confirm in general that it was happening.  One ToNeTo Atlanta reader familiar with the hotel indicated that the Holiday Inn had a restaurant on site that is currently unused and is sealed off from public view.  

The Atlanta project will be Bunkhouse’s first foray on the east coast.   Liz Lambert, the company's founder, opened her first hotel, Hotel San José, in a converted 1930s hotel on South Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas.  The hotel, which had fallen into disrepair, was not unlike the Intown Suites in Atlanta as it had become a haven for seedy characters.  

Lambert renovated the hotel, now 40 rooms, and reopened it in 2000.  In the years since, Lambert has opened other properties, establishing Bunkhouse in 2006 as an umbrella for her growing collection of enterprises.  

Bunkhouse currently operates other properties in California, Texas, and Mexico, including seven hotels, an event space and three Jo's Coffee shops.  

Despite our efforts, we were unsuccessful in securing photos of the Holiday Inn in its heyday.  That said, we did locate a rendering of the Square Inn, a 125 room property not far from the Holiday Inn at 2115 Piedmont Road.  The Optimist Lofts occupy a large portion of what appears to have been a sprawling property.  

A classic mid-century Holiday Inn complete with eye-catching signage 
We also found a postcard from the former Holiday Inn on Howell Mill Road that is today home to Piedmont Hospital's Piedmont West medical office park.  

Our research also uncovered this Fast Company article lamenting the loss of the iconic Holiday Inn roadside signs, one of which previously stood on Piedmont Road.  

Portland-based Ace Hotel, a leader in authentic boutique hotels, renovated another retro Holiday Inn, this one in Palm Springs, California, into a chic boutique property in 2012.

Currently, the Intown Suites serves as home to many underprivileged, longtime tenants. The development team is working with Action Ministries to assist in transitioning tenants to new locations.

According to the release, work on the project is expected to begin this spring, with an opening planned for some time in 2019.

Upon examining the property via Google Maps, and later visiting it in person, we discovered the property has more significance in Atlanta's history than one might have known.

The following is inscribed on an historical marker on Piedmont Circle, at the edge of the hotel's property:  

"THE SAGA OF GOLD TOOTH JOHN (Or: How the Holiday Inn Central Came To Be)  First the Cherokee Indians were here.  Then the White settlers were here. Among the first of these was Edwin Plaster who built his home near here. He grew cotton on this plot of land, and built the first permanent bridge across Peachtree Creek. He built a road known as Plasters Bridge Road from his plantation to Decatur Street in Atlanta.  And then the YANKEES were here!  Edwin Plaster went off to war. He returned to find his family scattered, his home burned, his fields devastated. This was wrought by Bill Sherman, the man who occupied and burned Atlanta and its environs (William T. Sherman, General, U.S. Army. The man who was the first to say “War is hell” … . and who is said to be the originator of Urban Renewal in Atlanta). Edwin Plaster rebuilt his home across the street from this site.  And then HOLIDAY INN CENTRAL was here!  When grading was started for the construction of Holiday Inn Central, there remained many of the Confederate entrenchments which were built across this site. Much of the decor and design of the Inn is built around the traditions of the area. Meeting rooms are named for Generals John B. Gordon-CSA, J.B. Hood-CSA, James Longstreet-CSA, J.B. McPherson-USA, and William T. Sherman, USA.  Gold Tooth John was the ancient Plaster family handyman who built the old stone steps directly below this sign. The steps were left standing as a monument to the glorious past. Legend has it that old Gold Tooth John, wearing rumpled old clothes and a set of whiskers, is often seen wandering about the Holiday Inn Central at night – looking for minnie balls."

We also inquired with representatives for Paces Properties about room rates, renderings and hotel management and were told more details would be released in the next couple of months.     

Are you excited about the renovations planned for the Piedmont hotel property?  What would you most like see incorporated as part of the renovation?  What is your favorite boutique hotel?

Please share your thoughts below.  


Phaedra said...

Whoever wrote the copy for the marker had a wonderful sense of humor. Best one I've ever heard 😊...

Chris said...

This is from the Development Authority of Fulton County:

Final Bond Resolution for Piedmont Hotel Owner (“Piedmont Hotel Owner”): Mr. Dan McRae of Seyfarth Shaw LLP appeared in connection with the request for a final bond resolution for the issuance of $43,000,000 in revenue bonds for the redevelopment of a 1960’s era motor lodge to a boutique hotel. Mr. McRae explained that this boutique hotel is expected to be a prototype of similar concepts across the Southeast. Mr. Nash reminded the Authority that the existing property is an abandoned extended stay hotel on Piedmont Circle near Interstate 85 and is considered an eyesore in the area. Mr. Nash added that since the existing property is a highly visible site, millions of people drive by the site weekly, and Fulton County is not generating much income on the property. Fulton County would greatly benefit from this redevelopment. Upon a motion made by Mr. Broadbent, which was seconded by Mr. Turpeau and Dr. Bell, the Authority unanimously approved the final bond resolution for Piedmont Hotel Owner.

fbenario said...

"design-centric, forward- thinking, and community driven.”

Goodness, what meaningless drivel.

J Duncan said...

There is a postcard with a rendering of the original hotel for sale at the moment with high res scans of the image. Really interesting to see what it used to look like: https://www.hippostcard.com/listing/atlanta-ga-georgia-holiday-inn-central-roadside-artists-view-postcard/16907498

Anonymous said...

Is this project still a go??

Alohajon said...

I worked at this hotel, Holiday Inn Central when it opened (was originally call Holiday Inn Northeast, but name was changed shortly at it opened, because another Holiday Inn was going to be built farther up I-85). It and the other Holiday Inns in the Atlanta area were owned and operated by United Inns, a large operator of Holiday Inns back in the 1960s. Many Holiday Inns in Atlanta and elsewhere from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s are no longer Holiday Inns. When I came back from serving in the military in 1970, worked at the Holiday Inn Northwest for a little while (working seven nights per week). Holiday Inn Central was very nice when it opened. How time flies, and how Atlanta has grown.

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