After years of preparation, delays and planning, Alcoa officials have finally approved and announced the first development on the Springbrook Farm site: a hotel.
Alcoa planning commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 15 to approve a request from Gary Best of Best and Associates Architects to build a Fairfield Inn & Suites on the north end of the Springbrook Farm property.
The hotel is the first development ever to get the green light from Alcoa for development in the 252-acre plot of land once dominated by the ALCOA Inc. West Plant.
Though the site has been empty for years outside of road construction and some grading operations, city planners have never approved requests or even announced the names of any businesses that might move into the area.
Master plans for the project show a wide variety of development types covering the land. Homes, offices, a grocery store and hotels are all part of the master plan, but their placement remains subject to approval by the Planning Commission.
For example, early master plans for the project showed retail development in the area where the Fairfield is now set to be built.
The city only recently approved complete platting that divided all of Springbrook Farm into nine distinct lots. Now those lots are being subdivided as developers hone in on different projects.
The hotel itself will be built on a 2.26-acre portion of land.
“It feels great,” City Manager Mark Johnson said in an interview after the Aug. 15 planning meeting. He and others see the first development in the area as an almost historical achievement and are eager for work to begin.
“It’ll feel even more great when some concrete goes in the ground and the building starts going up,” he said.
Johnson and others had expressed high hopes during 2020 budget meetings in May that substantial development would get underway before the summer was out.
“We were ... afraid that, though there’s a need there, the hotel might not start until more of the Alcoa Highway project is done right there,” he said.
But, with the planning now approved, it appears road projects may not be a further barrier to the hotel work.
Both City Planner Jeremy Pearson and Johnson said they were unaware of a specific deadline for a start date on the hotel. As of last week, the area was still overgrown and no grading work was underway.
A great deal of grading related to roads and potential business development is taking place on the south end of the Springbrook Farm area, however. Pearson said there is a reason for this: visibility.
“The hotel’s a real kickstart to the end where all the state road improvements are going,” he said. “But when you start looking at retail draws and those types of things, I think you’re going to see more occur on the Marconi end.”
Officials agree that the areas most ripe for actual construction will be those closest to the airport and those closest to the current Springbrook Corporate Center.
The hotel itself — set in the corner of where Tesla Boulevard connects with the Alcoa Highway off-ramp — will have a total 90 rooms. Designs on the approval show it will have four levels and planners have noted there may be a rooftop seating area as well.
Designs also include a pool.
In the same meeting planning commissioners approved the hotel, they also unanimously approved further construction of internal roads in the area where the Fairfield Inn is set to be built.
Lots there continue to be subdivided into areas averaging around 3 acres in size — this in preparation for what are expected to be more hospitality businesses, master plans for the Springbrook Farm site show.