Innovative lighting design marks new downtown boutique hotel renovation

Work is underway Downtown at the corner of Court Avenue and B.B. King Boulevard on the renovation of a former Econo Lodge that closed in November into a Hotel Indigo. The project recently received an $80,000 exterior improvement grant and design approval from the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC).

The building was built in 1963 as a Holiday Inn and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The upper three floors of the building will include 118 guest rooms, with six floors of parking below as well as ground floor and basement commercial space.

“Hotel Indigo has been looking at coming to Memphis for some time, and the developer was really looking to do something unique,” said Brett Ragsdale, principal with brg3s architects. “Every Hotel Indigo is actually designed for its neighborhood, so we looked at a six-block radius and there’s an integral radio theme. So we’re designing around radio and its impact on Memphis in the 1940s and 1950s.”

One of the reasons the DMC is strongly supporting the project is the commission’s push to improve lighting in the main Downtown corridors. Extensive exterior lighting highlights the new design, which also includes a new restaurant/bar and lobby area, and the existing historic concrete stanchions will be preserved and painted gold.

“We designed the lighting to mimic the stanchions and make it flow from the ground floor up through the guest floors like it’s one building,” said Ragsdale.

To enhance the pedestrian experience near the new hotel, the previous hotel’s vehicular entry point on B.B. King Boulevard is being converted into an outdoor terrace, and a new entry point is going in on Court Avenue.

The project began with selective demolition and abatement in January. Construction started on the upper floors in March, and project completion is expected by August. Atlanta-based Southcore is the general contractor.

Total construction costs will top $6 million, and once furniture, fixtures and equipment and restaurant opening costs are added the project will approach $10 million.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.