A rundown Hermitage motel ravaged twice by fire recently is under contract with a Utah-based developer who wants to convert the units into studio apartments.

The dilapidated 120-unit Vista Inn and Suites motel at 5772 Old Hickory Blvd. is in a high-crime area home to several other neglected motels, restaurants, retail, a hospital and medical offices adjacent to Interstate 40.

Salt Lake City developer Mountain Classic Real Estate recently held a virtual community meeting held by District 12 Councilmember Erin Evans to unveil plans for the 45-year-old property and to solicit feedback from residents.

“What our plan is for this property is to convert all of the hotel units into apartment units,” said MCRE’s Brandon Young.

Fire gutted rooms at the Vista Inn twice within the last six months. In April, a blaze that motel management suspected was ignited by transients destroyed 18 units. Ironically, the section of the motel was closed off while undergoing an investigation for a previous fire incident that started Christmas Day, motel owners said.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to talk with those who are in the neighborhood and in the area to incorporate your thoughts and feedback and make sure that what we’re doing really fits into the character and the nature of the neighborhood,” Young said at the meeting.

Young said the current owner of the Vista Inn first approached MCRE about a possible sale of the property. The 2.58-acre Vista Inn property last changed hands in 2016 when Kshama Hotel bought it for $3 million, according to public records.

“This was brought to us by the owner as a possible reposition. Although he won’t close the motel, he can continue to run it poorly for quite a while. He wanted to look at possible buyers,” said Young.

“It’s amazing that we could have an owner for that property that cares and wants to make a real investment in the area,” said Evans. “It’s exciting to know, but is it the right project, we will see.”

“Although we know the Nashville market well, we never want to go into to a market to say we know what should happen. We want to make sure we’re listening to everybody and that what we’re going to do really aligns with that neighborhood,” said Young.

“Initial feedback from the meeting was “relief. And oh, good, they’re going to clean up that place,” said Evans. Some residents inquired about gating the development and price point, which Evan will dig into. Others suggested the adjacent motel property be redeveloped in order to make a real impact and revitalize the area.

The Vista Inn, a two- and three-story L-shaped motel bordered by I-40 and Central Pike, sits in a neighborhood known for drug activity and frequented by the homeless and metro police cruisers.

MCRE would also like to buy the neighboring property where a Rodeway Inn currently sits, but they have not been able to come to reasonable terms with ownership yet, said Young.

MCRE had a 15-year business model that was about restoring historic properties. For the past three years the company’s focus shifted and they have repositioned hotels as apartments. Young said they currently own nine repositioned properties and hope to develop a couple more in Nashville.

MCRE’s branding is the Oslo, because the design is Scandinavian minimalist, said Young. However, it also incorporates elements of the local area. The latest completed project is the Oslo Murray, and they have projects in development in Albuquerque and Fayetteville, North Carolina. This project would likely be named the Oslo Hermitage.

Young said the Hermitage project would result in nice units with kitchenettes, high-end appliances and finishes, and a full exterior remodel with exterior corridors. Washers and dryers would be installed, too, if possible. Included are lots of common interior co-working spaces and a clubhouse. The pool would also be returned to working order.

“All of the amenities that a normal apartment might have, just much smaller than normal apartments – they’re like efficiently studio units,” said Young.

It rents to standard tenants and performs credit and background checks.

“We just have a lower rate and a high-value proposition,” said Young. “We have what is called an attainable rent. We’re not an affordable rent project, but we do want to make sure that our rents are below what the market highs are. We are not involved with any government programs and that type of stuff.”

Evans will continue to solicit feedback from interested citizens. Questions, comments and concerns can be sent to her councilmember email address at erin.evans@nashville.gov.

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