Site visit: Hyatt sets its sights on Memphis

CIMAS Lobby Lounge is the perfect spot to grab a cocktail before a night on the town.
CIMAS Lobby Lounge is the perfect spot to grab a cocktail before a night on the town.

In a prime location at the foot of Beale Street overlooking the Mississippi River, an ambitious new Hyatt development is making its mark on the downtown Memphis landscape. The vision for the development, dubbed “One Beale,” is to build three Hyatt properties in one complex, a groundbreaking arrangement for the company, said Nicholas Janysek, the Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis’ director of sales, marketing, and events.

“You see a lot of dual brands. You don’t see a lot of triple brands this close together,” said Janysek. Once complete, the complex will include 730 rooms and approximately 55,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor riverfront space.

The industrially inspired, 227-room Hyatt Centric is the first One Beale hotel to open its doors, making its debut this past April. Next door, a Caption by Hyatt is well underway. Developers have set their sights on rounding out the trio with a 20-story Grand Hyatt; if all goes to plan, they will break ground in the first quarter of 2022, said Janysek. Final renderings of the glass tower were unveiled in late July.

The newly opened Hyatt Centric recently invited us to take a firsthand look at the property and surrounding sights. When we arrived, we found a city brimming with energy and activity.

Essential property details

The hallmark of the Hyatt Centric is a blend of new and old: The main hotel building is a new construction, but it’s built on and around the circa-1879 William C. Ellis and Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop Building. The hotel draws inspiration from its historic roots, with industrial references incorporated into fixtures and artwork. There are also ample allusions to Memphis’ musical roots, from a lobby chandelier that resembles trombones to hall lights reminiscent of treble clefs.

The location’s industrial history really shines through in the hotel’s meeting space, set within the ironworks itself. The largest room, the Foundry, features original brickwork, beams, and doorways, with dimensions that make it ideal for social or nonprofit functions. The light-filled pre-function space looks out invitingly over the pool.

The hotel also features a stunning rooftop bar, Beck and Call, with a wrap-around patio that offers city and river views. As the only riverfront rooftop bar in Memphis, it has fast become a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Downstairs, the open-concept lobby flows into a lounge and bar, which in turn opens onto the signature CIMAS restaurant. The only riverfront restaurant in Memphis, CIMAS features a Latin American-inspired menu that emphasizes fresh, bright flavors.

Guest rooms feature stylish midcentury décor and a palette of natural greys and blues, accentuated by bright pops of mustard. Twelve suites offer spectacular views and thoughtfully laid out rooms, with ample space to work and relax.

What’s nearby

One Beale sits in a sweet spot downtown, with must-see experiences spread out in every direction. The newly renovated Renasant Convention Center is about a mile north, an easy walk along the riverfront. The convention center’s recent $200M modernization effort centered around bringing ample natural light into the space, with sweeping views of the river and a color palette of blues and browns that mirrors the view outside. “You can step out of almost every meeting room and see natural light,” said LeeAnn Shewbart, the convention center’s director of events.

The center features a 118,000-square-foot column-free exhibit hall that can be subdivided into up to 10 breakout rooms, plus 46 meeting rooms that total more than 90,000 square feet. There are also gracious pre-function and reception areas, including outdoor space. The adjoining Cannon Center for the Performing Arts offers 2,100 seats.

A block east of the hotel lies South Main Street, a historic arts district bustling with shops, restaurants, and people-watching. Walk five blocks south along South Main and you’ll find yourself at the National Civil Rights Museum, a somber and powerful experience built around the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on an upstairs balcony in 1968.

The museum uses a series of immersive spaces to trace key touchpoints in American history, from the Atlantic slave trade to Dr. King’s assassination. Visitors will sit in a mock courtroom to learn about the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, see and hear a recreation of a burning bus to commemorate Freedom Riders who were attacked in Anniston, Ala., and feel as though they are among the crowd on the National Mall for Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. The museum culminates at the motel room where King spent his final days, and the balcony where he lived his final moments. Visitors should expect to spend half a day at the museum and allow plenty of time to reflect and decompress afterward.

The hotel repurposed the circa-1879 William C. Ellis and Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop Building for its unique meeting space.
The hotel repurposed the circa-1879 William C. Ellis and Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop Building for its unique meeting space.

Visitors who walk east from the hotel will find themselves amid the hustle and bustle of the famed Beale Street entertainment district, with its live music and active nightlife. A little bit father east sits Sun Studio, a modest building packed with historic relevance. Known as “The Birthplace of Rock’n’roll,” this is the spot where Elvis Presley recorded his first tracks, Johnny Cash recorded Folsom Prison Blues and Walk the Line, and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded Great Balls of Fire. (Apparently it took 42 attempts to record this one – our excellent tour guide, Lydia Fletcher, confided: “I’ve heard the outtakes. He was extremely intoxicated.”)

One of the main attractions of the tour is that visitors stand in the original recording space itself to hear stories about the artists who performed there. There’s an “X” on the ground where Elvis stood, and visitors can plant themselves in that precise spot to absorb the ambiance. Studio founder Sam Phillips even donated the microphone into which the performers sang, with the stipulation that it not be kept behind glass. Visitors can take photos with it, touch it, pretend to sing into it—the only thing Fletcher asked is that we not take it or kiss it. At only a mile from the hotel, the studio is technically within walking distance, but Beale Street past the entertainment district is an industrial area not frequented by foot traffic, so a car ride is recommended.

Closer to the hotel, just one block south, Old Dominick Distillery offers the only distillery tour in Memphis. Old Dominick’s history stretches back 150 years, when founder Domenico Canale, a new arrival in the country from Italy, delved into the world of spirits and began selling whiskey in ceramic jugs. The distillery tour delves into the fascinating twists and turns of the company’s history, and visitors are invited to stay for a tasting afterward.

After exploring the surrounding area, guests can indulge in a sundowner at the Hyatt Centric’s lobby lounge before turning in for the night. The signature drinks menu offers a creative Memphis-inspired lineup, from the “Muddy Waters”—a delightful twist on a margarita—to a “Beale Street Mule,” a clever blend of vodka, blood orange, lime, and ginger beer.

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