Liz Engel Clark
Thursday, Apr 26, 2012
CROSSVILLE – The success of Crossville’s downtown revitalization efforts largely hinge on the addition of a hotel, bed and breakfast or other lodging establishment, a group of University of Tennessee MBA students said.
The MBA students spent more than 300 hours researching ways that Downtown Crossville Inc., a non-profit group, could better revitalize its downtown, in order to generate increased sales tax revenue from residents and tourists. The results of the study were presented to a group of city and business leaders on Wednesday. The recommendations ranged from adding a downtown hotel, restaurants and bars to integrating Roane State and – namely – Cumberland Medical Center into the efforts. Roane State because of its readily available workforce – there’s an apparent lack of available young workers for new businesses coming in, the students said. The hospital because it’s a great recruiting tool and its employees and physicians would come downtown to work, live, shop and relax.
“You have a retail customer base built in (with the medical center),” said student Chris Inklebarger. “It’s a draw (for Crossville), not only for business owners, but for retirees and people who came to the area. Unfortunately, so far it hasn’t been a draw for the downtown area. We need to bridge the gap so CMC becomes part of the downtown extension.”
The lack of a small, niche hotel was a noticeable deficiency when the group brought several benchmark cities into the study. They compared Crossville to comparable destinations like Asheville, N.C.; Abingdon, Va.; Commerce, Ga., and Hendersonville, N.C.: All had a mixture of downtown businesses, they said, which included lodging – hotels and/or bed and breakfasts – and restaurants/bars. Crossville currently has no downtown hotel and only one fine dining establishment.
The addition of a hotel, of course, was based on the assumption that the city had the adequate infrastructure to support it, which is a current challenge in Crossville.
“We believe that a downtown hotel is imperative to make sure that this works,” Inklebarger said. “Before you jump in, you need to figure out exactly what can you support. Maybe a large hotel won’t work, or maybe you find out that through CMC, you’re going to be able to build a full-scale hotel.”
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III, who attended the meeting along with other city council members, said incorporating the findings of the study would take coordination. He still wanted to maintain the city’s small-town feel.
“We don’t want to be in competition with Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. We want to be in competition for smaller groups,” Graham said. “To me, we have to have the infrastructure that’s necessary first. It would be hard for me to imagine that a hotel would come to Crossville when they know that our infrastructure is 100 years old. I think that’s very important.”
DCI members said they were going to digest the information before making any decisions. The group first got its start in 1994 and has been addressing downtown issues ever since; the students, they said, were able to offer a much-needed fresh perspective.
“Downtown Crossville Inc. is excited to incorporate the findings from the University of Tennessee MBA team as we move forward with the revitalization effort," said Tonya Hinch of DCI.
The MBA student team, meanwhile, also included student and project manager David Mann, Kelvin Fernandes, Bret Schumacher and Jeremy Fournier. Their faculty advisor was Austin Lane.
Editor’s note: An extended version of this story will be published in our May edition