Regions Southwest Virginia

Hotel expected to contribute to downtown Bristol’s revival

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The Bristol Hotel is scheduled to open next year.
Photo courtesy City of Bristol

Bristol’s Executive Plaza building was 2 years old when producer Ralph Peer conducted the 1927 recording sessions often called the “Big Bang” of country music.

The former office building now is being renovated to become the Bristol Hotel, a boutique hotel adjacent to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The museum commemorates the legacy of Peer’s initial recordings of legendary performers such as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.

For most of its existence, the Executive Plaza housed offices for doctors, lawyers and other professionals. “Over the past few years it’s become a little bit blighted,” Bristol, Va., Mayor Bill Hartley says. “One of the things I appreciate is they’re taking an older structure and doing an adaptive reuse.”

In addition to investments by McCall Capital, a South Carolina equity firm, the Bristol Hotel is being transformed with the help of city economic development incentives, support from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, and state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

“It’s really trying to bring that structure back to its former glory,” Hartley says. Or perhaps well beyond the building’s former glory.

The hotel plans to offer a farm-to-table restaurant, spa services and up to 3,000 square feet of meeting space to complement 56 guest rooms, seven junior suites, one executive suite and a 1,200-square-foot penthouse. The hotel’s roof-top bar will offer a view of the city and nearby mountains.

“You can look one way and you can see the historic train station that was renovated and look out the other way and see the historic Bristol sign that says it is ‘a good place to live,’” Hartley says.

If the mayor gets his way, the train station one block from the hotel once again will serve rail passengers.  With Amtrak trains to arrive in Roanoke this fall, city officials are working to extend passenger service through Bristol all the way to Chattanooga, Tenn.

Hartley says the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, music festivals and events such as the NASCAR races at Bristol Motor Speedway have brought the city’s downtown back to life. The mayor says the city is simply “trying to build on what makes Bristol unique.”

The Bristol Hotel, which is scheduled to open early next year, apparently won’t be the sole boutique hotel in town. Hartley says The Sessions Hotel already is planned for another part of downtown.

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