By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – In the summer of 2015, members of the Cookeville Planning Commission listened to a presentation by Auxin, LLC, regarding a potential game-changer for the city – a proposed hotel/conference center to be located in the city’s Westside district.
After the rezoning of the old Wilson building property and a parcel previously owned and used by Builder’s Supply Company by Auxin, LLC last year, the group is moving ahead, most recently securing a parking variance for the property.
The proposed five-story, Hilton-branded facility could potentially open the door for larger, more convention-type events for the city and the area as a whole
“Having lived in Cookeville all my life, and Putnam County, it’s really neat to see, now being on the tourism-side the need and the uses that a facility such as the proposed hotel/convention center could be used (for),” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development at the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau. “We always could use more hotel rooms.”
The more rooms available, the more marketable the area becomes to potential visitors, he said.
“We like to promote Putnam County as a whole and (the) more rooms that we have make us more competitive to other communities as well,” Ledbetter added, noting that his team is mindful in making sure all local hotel proprietors succeed.
Ledbetter says the majority of the feedback he’s hearing about the proposed facility is positive.
“People are very excited about the opportunity to have this convention facility,” he said. “I would say that those people that are a little hesitant, are worried about growing too much.
“I know our leadership, business leaders and elected officials want healthy growth (and) controlled growth,” Ledbetter added. “I think that we have that.”
The proposed project site is conveniently located in the heart of the city’s Westside district; near Cookeville Regional Medical Center, Tennessee Tech University, retail shopping and restaurants.
A few nearby venues, at Tennessee Tech and Leslie Town Centre that could play host to various events, are limited in terms of number of occupants allowed.
“There are some things that we’re missing out on that we can’t host just because we don’t have the space for them,” Ledbetter said.
“We talked to a conference that’s looking to bring in 1,500 to 2,000 people and they want to be able to seat those hopefully at the same time,” he added. “And, right now, we don’t have a facility, probably, that can accommodate that.”