Memphis Shuffle: Crowne Plaza’s $7M renovation captures city’s soulful spirit

It’s home to some of America’s most influential music—from Elvis’ early rock ‘n’ roll to B.B. King’s soulful blues. But while Memphis is a city perhaps best known for its vibrant music scene, it also offers visitors an array of F&B venues for sampling some of the region’s best barbecue and plenty of cultural sites for exploring the city’s—and the country’s—storied history.

Located in the heart of this vibrant city at 300 North Second, just off Beale St. and directly across from the Memphis convention center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is the Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown. The 230-key property recently underwent a $7-million renovation that included updates to its guestrooms, common areas and restaurant/bar that incorporates the true spirit of Memphis.

Nagib Lakhani, principal at RevMax Hospitality Consulting, the owners of the property, said the eight-year-old hotel was in need of a complete overhaul. “We felt there was an opportunity to reposition Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown to be more relevant to tourists and business travelers,” he said. “We wanted to create spaces that would allow people to socialize, mingle and interact in a comfortable environment by repositioning the lounge and meeting rooms on the ground floor.” Also in the renovation plans was the addition of a “substantial” fitness center as well as the installation of a new, outdoor patio.

The owners worked with local architectural firm Architecture Inc. to spearhead the construction, and, noted Lakhani, worked closely with them to “incorporate Memphis’ rich history into the design of the building.”

To further bring their vision of a hotel that could host larger meetings and include “decor that spoke to the Memphis community,” the owners chose Design Force Corporation, a Denver-based firm they had worked with before on other projects.

“They have a great track record with us,” said Lakhani. “They have much experience and did a great job researching and incorporating the Memphis flavor into the updated design of Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown.”

“Our client’s objective was to bring new life to an older property through a dynamic renovation, by infusing the flavor of Memphis, and leveraging the downtown location to draw in both tourists and business travelers,” said Amy Matteson, studio manager, senior interior designer, Design Force Corporation. “They wanted guests to experience the soul, music and spirit of Memphis, which we focused on as inspiration for our bright, bold colors, rhythmic patterns and playful attitude.”

Since it was their first design project in Memphis and knowing how important it was to the client that they understand and experience Memphis firsthand, Matteson said she and her team made several visits to the city. As a designer, she added, she always looks to regional influences to inspire and inform color palettes and furniture styles, and this city provided numerous areas of inspiration. “Memphis has a lot of pride in its history and cultural icons, which is apparent in most all conversations with the locals,” she said. “We took long walks downtown and along the river, spent time on Beale Street and, of course, hit our share of favorite restaurants.”

But, it was Memphis’ music scene that had perhaps the biggest impact on her design choices. “The music of Memphis is undeniable,” said Matteson. “It informed many design decisions, from the custom carpet patterns, to the rhythmic detailing of the millwork, to subtle curves reminiscent of guitars, and to the sound-wave-inspired artwork at the registration desks.”

In addition to the music references, iconic images from the city’s historic architecture and the work of local artists were incorporated into the design as well. “The shelves are filled with final touches that were purchased locally from area art galleries and used book stores,” said Matteson. “There are many unique pieces in the hotel that are from local artists and photographers.”

Renovations made to the guestrooms include new carpet, window treatments and paint, 43-in. flat-screen TVs, new lounge chairs and end tables, as well as refrigerators and in-room safes. Additional upgrades to the 9th and 10th floors include 49-in. TVs, upgraded bathroom vanity mirrors, and new wall and floor treatments in bathrooms, hallways and elevators. A fully renovated and redesigned restaurant, Notes & Provisions, offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails. There is outdoor patio seating on the Blues Patio, which is equipped with cooling and mist fans, an updated closed buffet area and a new bar.

As in most renovation projects, there were some obstacles that had to be overcome during the Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown renovation, but all parties worked together to achieve success on all levels, said Matteson. “One goal was to activate the lobby by relocating the bar closer to the entrance. This was a tricky move,” she recalled. “With the goal of expanding the fitness area and bringing it to the main level, we had to relocate the administrative offices. This presented a hurdle in the phasing of construction, as the hotel remained open during the renovation. The design and construction teams had to work closely with operations to ensure guest satisfaction didn’t suffer.”

One thing that didn’t change with the hotel’s renovation is its commitment to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It partners with the nonprofit to raise awareness and gifting, according to Mark Baker, the hotel’s general manager.

The owners, who were very involved throughout the process, were pleased with how the design team realized their vision. “Design Force did a wonderful job taking the vision and incorporating the brand standards with local Memphis flavor,” noted Lakhani. “Memphis is integral to the hotel’s identity. We really try to incorporate the local Memphis feel to the hotel so travelers can have the experience out on the town as well as where they stay.” HB

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