Charleston’s massive Midtown hotel to begin rising soon
Work begins in earnest this month on a long-delayed construction project on Upper King Street that will be anchored by two Hyatt hotel flags.
Crews are preparing to demolish several vacant structures on 2.4 acres at King and Spring streets as the $80 million second half of the Midtown redevelopment project gets rolling. Preliminary test pilings are already underway.
A 10-story dual-branded Hyatt House and Hyatt Place hotel with a combined 304 guest rooms and ground-floor retail space along King will begin taking shape on Aug. 26, said Reid Freeman, president of Atlanta-based Regent Partners, a partner in the long-planned project with CC&T Real Estate Services.
It’s scheduled to be completed in March 2015, said Robert Clement, president of Charleston-based CC&T.
The project will include four new buildings totaling 433,000 square feet. Two existing structures on the site will be saved.
In addition to the 232,000-square-foot hotel, a seven-story parking garage with 400 spaces will rise on an adjacent parcel.
Freeman said the group decided to go with a dual brand of Hyatt because it’s looking to capture different types of guests. The hotels will have separate lobbies. Hyatt Place will be the bigger of the two, with 191 rooms.
Midtown, which originally included the parcel where the 200-unit Elan Midtown apartment complex is nearing completion, will be one of the largest redevelopment projects in downtown Charleston, Clement said.
“For the longest time, King Street has needed this bookend,” he said.
Evening Post Industries, The Post and Courier’s owner, also has plans for that rapidly changing area of the city. It owns about 12 acres at and around the newspaper’s headquarters, about a block north of the Midtown site. The company is proposing to redevelop the property into a mix of new residential and commercial uses, but no plans have been approved.
Charleston room boom spurs new rules on hotel size and location
One of the biggest changes calls for extending the city’s 50-room limit on new lodgings from Calhoun Street north to the Septima Clark Expressway.
The proposed revisions also would eliminate hotel zoning in certain areas along Meeting and St. Philip streets to prevent intrusion into nearby residential areas.
But an exception to the proposed limits has raised concerns from the preservation group that has pushed for the new restrictions. And some hoteliers worry about the impact of the updated regulations.
The proposals won’t halt hotel development on the peninsula. The major projects that are either underway or previously approved aren’t affected. Those include the 304-room property scheduled to begin construction soon near King and Spring streets; a 185-room hotel planned for the site of the old Charleston County Library off King; a 165-room hotel coming to upper Meeting; and a 161-room hotel proposed for the former federal building across from Marion Square.
All told, nearly 1,500 new rooms are in the works for peninsular Charleston, many of them smaller projects.
“Anything speculative but hasn’t gotten a permit, this would stop that from happening,” said Tim Keane, the city’s director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability.
“Our feeling is that the accommodation use is a very important one,” Keane said. “We have to be very protective of it. We think we need to dial back on it a little bit.”
Mayor Joe Riley said he supports the changes.
“You don’t want too many of any one thing,” Riley said. “Hotels are valuable and contribute much to the city, but you want to make sure land is available for other uses. You want to make sure there is diversity.”
He called the revisions “very sound,” adding, “We are thinking long-range.”
The city is proposing an exception to its expanded 50-room zone, which for now affects projects south of Calhoun Street. That provision would allow hotels with more than 50 rooms provided they have at least 20,000 square feet of meeting space and a full-service restaurant. Also, those properties would have to be within the area bound by Mary, King, Line and Meeting streets.
Riley said that serves a useful purpose for visitors and residents because the bigger properties could handle wedding receptions and other civic gatherings that a smaller lodging could not accommodate.
The city last updated its accommodations rules in 1997. A local organization drew attention to the surge in downtown hotel development in the spring by calling for new restrictions. The Preservation Society of Charleston said this spring it was concerned about overbuilding and the impact it would have on the peninsula.
“We are being inundated with hotel proposals, and it’s not healthy for the historic district,” Robert Gurley, the group’s director of advocacy, said in April.
The group is now hailing the proposed expansion of the 50-room cap and the city’s effort to prevent hotels from encroaching on residential neighborhoods.
“We believe this will lessen the impact of traffic and encourage the diversity of uses,” Gurley said recently.
At the same time, the Preservation Society is concerned about the provision that keeps the door open for bigger hotels in the expanded room-cap zone.
“We believe this has the potential to diminish the impact of the 50-room cap,” Gurley said.
Dan Blumenstock, the past president of the Charleston Area Hospitality Association, said he supports the exception to the 50-room limit, but he takes issue with imposing restrictions on hotel sizes with one broad stroke.
“I get very cautious when any government is trying to impose a one-size-fits-all,” said Blumenstock, who is vice chairman of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and manages Fennell Holdings’ Lowcountry Hotels. “Maybe it should be done on a case-by-case basis.
“We are in the hotel business,” he continued. “We are looking to develop and prosper all at the same time. We can develop good brands, good architecture and be an added amenity to the community. One-size-fits-all doesn’t always do that. They are taking a one-size blanket and trying to impose it.”
The more than 100-member hospitality association has not taken an official stance on the issue, because no one from the group has made a request, Blumenstock said. Unless someone does before City Council considers final approval next month, the organization won’t get involved, he added.
Local real estate developer Robert Clement, who is part of a group that is about to break ground on a 304-room, 10-story dual-branded Hyatt hotel at King and Spring streets, said extending the 50-room limit while also allowing larger, full-service hotels strikes a good balance.
“The success of Charleston is blending and making sure you don’t overbuild any one thing in any one place,” Clement said. “You need to make sure you have the right size in the right market and the right quantity.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
Newspaper’s ownership has big plans for upper king, Meetings streets
Article By: David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.
With resurgent development bringing new apartments, hotels and shops to the Charleston peninsula’s upper King and Meeting streets, one landowner is rolling out plans that could remake nearly three city blocks.
Evening Post Publishing Co., the parent company of The Post and Courier, owns nearly 12 acres along King, Meeting and St. Philip streets. It’s an area nearly twice the size of Marion Square, and more than half the land is vacant or used for parking lots. In all, it’s one of the largest contiguous pieces of property south of the Crosstown.
For city and neighborhood representatives who see vacant lots as eyesores, talk of redevelopment has been received with cautious optimism.
“Something needs to go there because it’s a blighted area,” said City Councilman Robert Mitchell, referring to a large vacant lot at Meeting and Columbus streets.
With large buildings rising just one block south, at Spring Street, Evening Post Publishing has laid out a concept plan that could extend the redevelopment of upper King and Meeting streets as far as Line Street near Interstate 26.
“I’ve been watching that progression come up King Street over the past 10 years, with retail coming back to life and all the new restaurants,” said Stuart Coleman of CC&T Real Estate, which is developing a 300-room hotel complex at King and Spring streets. “I think that what (Evening Post Publishing) will do with all that property will help continue that progression.”
City officials plan to work with Evening Post Publishing to hold public input and planning meetings, to consider the future of the property.
Ron Owens, Evening Post Publishing’s vice president of finance, said the company could break ground in 18 months.
“We hope to start talking to developers in the next few weeks,” Owens said.
The immediate focus of what could be a 10-year redevelopment will be the vacant lot at Meeting and Columbus streets, across from a Piggly Wiggly, and an adjacent parking lot.
“I think it would be huge,” said Jared Lott, manager of the grocery store. “The more homes, and housing, can only be good for our business.”
“Of course, I don’t want any grocery stores over there,” he said.
A master plan prepared by DesignWorks suggests the land at Meeting and Columbus should be primarily retail space, with a parking garage in the center of the property hidden by surrounding buildings.
The site is immediately north of ongoing construction on Meeting Street that will result in a 200-unit apartment building at Spring Street, a 120-room Holiday Inn at Woolfe Street, and a 42-unit apartment complex at Reid Street.
“It’s a great property, obviously, located right on the main entry into town, adjacent to neighborhoods,” said Tim Keane, director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability for the city.
“It’s nothing but a gravel lot right now,” he said. “You’re not displacing anything or dealing with historic buildings.”
Redevelopment would likely involve zoning changes, because the Evening Post Publishing land is mostly zoned industrial or “general business.” The city has been encouraging development that includes a mix of residential and commercial uses, unsuited to those zoning classifications.
“Anything would upgrade the area, but we need to make sure it’s smart growth,” said Mitchell. He expects constituents will be interested in potential jobs, as well as new places to shop.
“The biggest thing is jobs,” Mitchell said.
The company has sought no plan reviews or zoning changes, but has discussed redevelopment concepts with city officials and some civic groups.
In addition to new buildings, Evening Post Publishing’s plan looks at possibly extending Columbus Street by one block to St. Philip Street, preserving a freight rail right-of-way that the city hopes to use as a greenway or bike path, and creating some small parks.
The idea of redeveloping the land comes as no surprise to those who keep an eye on downtown planning and development. The company previously commissioned a Clemson Architecture Center study.
The Clemson study bluntly described the Evening Post Publishing properties as “an urban wasteland” dominated by an “unattractive” newspaper building, and called for building a new newspaper office building, hundreds of homes, and commercial and office space on the company land.
The company’s new master plan anticipates 450 residences, more than 900,000 square feet of retail and office space, and three parking garages with more than 2,100 spaces.
The fate of the newspaper operation is a question left undecided. The Evening Post Publishing building, built in 1952, runs the length of a King Street block and houses company and newspaper offices, printing presses and loading docks.
The company plans to address that section of the property last, after redeveloping vacant land and parking areas.
“I think the point is that, at some point, printing papers in downtown Charleston will no longer make sense,” Owens said. “Right now, it doesn’t make sense to relocate any of that.”
Parker said concepts for the land were developed with an eye on city planning documents such as the Century V Plan.
“One of the things the mayor has said is that he would like to see more people living downtown, and our plan encourages that,” said Parker.
Keane said the direction redevelopment will likely take seems pretty clear, with an extension of the business district between King and Meeting, and residential development on St. Philip Street.
The large main parking lot for Evening Post Publishing extends from King Street to St. Philip Street, which is otherwise lined with homes.
“We’re going to be generally enthusiastic about seeing it developed,” said Andrew Gould, development committee chairman for the Cannonborough-Elliotborough Neighborhood Association. “It’s sort of a missing tooth in the neighborhood, with all the missing buildings there.”
The company plans to work with developers, but expects to retain property ownership.
“We want to continue to be the masters of the destiny of this property, but we don’t want to be the developers,” said John Barnwell, vice chairman and CEO of Evening Post Publishing.
Board Chairman Pierre Manigault said Post and Courier readers will expect the paper’s editorial page to hold the company to the same standards as other developers.
“Our editorial board is always independent of corporate ownership,” he said. “We expect them to keep us in line.”
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.
[Slade, David. (2012, October 21). Newspaper’s ownership has big plans for upper king, Meetings streets. Retrieved October 22, 2012, from (http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20121021/PC16/121029866/newspaper-s-ownership-has-big-plans-for-upper-king-meetings-streets]