Makeover Monday: Memphis Hotel Gets All Shook Up

Memphis Clarion Hotel designed by Jay Michael

This week’s Makeover Monday features a $3.5 million hotel makeover in Memphis, not far from Elvis Presley’s Graceland.


The Ramada Inn on Brooks Road in Whitehaven, a Memphis community better known as home of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, had fallen apart, just like the neighborhood surrounding it.


“It’s a huge tourist area but it’s still really disinvested and has been in decline for 20 or 30 years, “Kerry Hayes, special assistant to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, told Hotel Check-in.


Built in 1974, the building still evoked a sense of grandeur but was in desperate need of a makeover. It had not gone through a single renovation since its opening.


Enter Jay Michael and his business partners in Chicago, the Cedar Street group. They had been interested in investing in a portfolio of apartment buildings in the Windy City when they stumbled upon the Ramada Inn in Memphis, which was included.


After touring the property and neighborhood, they decided they could turn it around. The hotel’s proximity to Graceland, about one mile away, and Memphis International Airport made it attractive.


After a year and a half of renovations, they’ve rebranded it the Clarion Hotel Memphis at Graceland, with a grand opening slated for May, 2012. A spokeswoman said the group went with Clarion because “they gave them flexibility on the rooms and in the lobby.

New look, new food

All 245 rooms have been renovated. They now feature modern furniture, plasma TVs and iPod docking stations. Bathrooms have new granite countertops. All rooms and common areas have Wi-Fi. The lobby has a soothing beige and brown palette and a glamorous chandelier.


Trumpets Restaurant, a Southern comfort breakfast and lunch venue, has gone through a complete renovation, and will now offer farm-to-table cuisine rather than dishes made from Sysco ingredients. An “urban learning garden” is in the works in front of the hotel.


“This urban learning garden will teach Memphis inner city kids how to grow healthy food and snacks while providing the hotel with fresh farmed produce year-round,” Michael told Hotel Check-in. “It helps an underinvested community while making farm to table eating possible in a typically impossible venue.”


Dad’s Place, a well-known lounge on the Memphis live music circuit, has also gotten a face lift  but still maintains its old-world charm with a pool table and big wood-paneled bar. Diners can feast on barbecue while listening to music. Fun fact: Elvis used to hang out at Dad’s Place and his booth is still there exactly as he left it. Blue Bar, which pays homage to all Memphis music, also is sporting a new look, with wood paneling and chess tables, making for a relaxing atmosphere.


Everything from the paint to the artwork to the furnishings has been changed. The fitness center has new equipment and a plasma TV.


“I wanted it to feel like Martha Stewart meets Paula Deen in Memphis,” Michael says.


Community renewal

Hayes says the city is determined to invest in Whitehaven and its iconic Elvis Presley Boulevard. The city also wants to attract entrepreneurs to the area. The new Clarion property is a good first step, he says.


“I think there’s a need for more, good branded hotel space, more inventory in that neighborhood,” he says. “Graceland will only continue to do better and I think whoever comes wants nice, safe, clean places to stay.”


He called what Michael and his partners have done with the Ramada Inn “a bellwether.”


“Hopefully a lot of people will come in and follow him,” he says.



To read the original article on USA Today, click here.

Published by Nancy Trejos on April 2, 2012.

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