Details emerge regarding planned Printers Alley hotel project

Catbird Seat parent company to be involved in effort

Details emerged today regarding a 160-room boutique hotel development planned for Printers Alley and that has attracted much opposition.

According to a release, the development team – consisting of Royal Investments owner Alex Marks, Gulch-based developer Bill Barkley and equity investors Jennifer and Billy Frist — would preserve two historic buildings fronting Fourth Avenue North, partner with local restaurant company Strategic Hospitality for food and beverage services, and provide a live music venue.

Royal Investments closed Thursday on  the $4.3 million purchase of three buildings for the project, the backs of which address Printers Alley. The entity has a contract on the fourth building, with that sale expected to close soon, according to The Tennessean.

Strategic Hospitality, spearheaded by brothers Benjamin and Max Goldberg, owns and operates Merchants, Catbird Seat, Pinewood Social and Paradise Park Trailer Resort.

Since news of the hotel broke, a "Save Printer's Alley" campaign has been launched, with more than 14,000 people have "liked" the group's Facebook page. In the release, Royal said the project would result in the preservation of the historic Utopia building, which is now empty and deteriorating and which years ago housed a hotel.

From the release:

"For the last couple of weeks, many people have questioned what our plans were, which is understandable. Unfortunately, due to contractual obligations, we weren’t able to discuss any details until we closed on the properties,” said Alex Marks, developer and principal of Royal Investments, who is partnering with Gulch developer Bill Barkley and equity partners including Jennifer and Billy Frist on the project. “We intend to build new structures over existing buildings while restoring the Embers Building and the Utopia Hotel building, returning it to its former glory as a boutique hotel which will front on Fourth Avenue. On the Printers Alley side, we intend to embrace and maintain the character, history and cultural identity that have created so many memories over the years. We believe people will be excited to see the details as they emerge. Now that we have closed, we are able to reach out to each of the tenants to discuss their leases.”

With the financing and appropriate zoning in place, the development group can now focus on engaging the community while moving forward on the design of the new structures above the alley and the historic restoration of the existing buildings.

Bill Barkley says the 160+ room hotel project has secured the commitment of a world-class brand with locations in the U.S. and abroad. Strategic Hospitality – known for introducing Nashville to new icons like the Catbird Seat, Pinewood Social and Broadway honky tonk Paradise Park Trailer Resort – will be involved on the food and beverage side.

“There are a lot of factors that drive these announcements, and we’re simply not in a position to reveal our hotel partner yet,” Barkley said.

Partner Billy Frist says the group is confident that their views are in line with what they’ve heard is most important to the public, and that the project team has been overwhelmed with the support for Printer’s Alley.“The character of the area is important to our city, and we’re focused on doing it the right way for the right reasons,” Frist said. “This will be something we will all be proud to have as part of downtown Nashville.”