The nine-story Walnut Building at 706 Walnut Street has become the newest downtown building slated for hotel conversion. The building, owned by Nadeem Saddiqi, will be transformed by Atlanta-based Hitesh Patel and Elevate Architecture Studio. The same group are linked with the arrival of the Springhill Suites in Old Town, although in this case in conjunction with local Nick Patel.
Plans submitted to the Knox County Design Review Board (which you can view in full here) outline plans to convert the retail and office building into retail and hospitality space. The lobby would face Walnut Street via a modified (and straightened) facade, while the existing business, Yassin’s Falafel House, would remain in its current space.
To that end, Yassin released a statement via Facebook:
We are aware of the planning to build a new hotel in the building. . . they promised we would keep our lease in the building and we are happy with the idea as long as we can stay safe and operate safely during construction. We are still waiting for more details since the plan has been officially submitted. We still have many years left in our lease and as always, we will be YOUR place where you can enjoy a meal and fall in love. Our Falafel house is not just a business. . . (it) is a home for our entire community and will stay that way.
Alterations to the 1955 building would begin with the exterior, which would include coloring the brick an “opaque white color.” The curved, recessed storefront facing the walnut would be replaced by a horizontal facade facing the street. An accessible entrance and stair exit to the second floor would be added on the east side of the building. Signage would also be added to the exterior of the building.
When completed, the hotel is expected to include 91 rooms on the top eight floors of the building. This follows two new build hotels and three building conversion hotels announced for Gay Street, as well as the planned hotel for the Old Town. Of the six hotel projects announced, only one has started construction.
No timeline for the project was given.