Hotel and Spa Planned for Charleston

A Charlotte-based developer plans to build a 180-room hotel and spa near the Meeting Street Piggly Wiggly grocery store, according to sources close to the deal and plans recently filed with the city.

On Nov. 15, Tara Hospitality Corp., a North Carolina company that owns two Upstate hotels, bought three plots of land next to Burris Liquor for $2.5 million, according to the seller, Monarch Development LLC. The company also inked a 99-year lease for the two adjacent plots where Burris Liquor now stands.

A week earlier, Tara filed plans with city regulators to build a 180-room hotel fronting Meeting Street between Reid and Wolfe streets. The project calls for a spa, a rooftop pool, a restaurant, a dozen condos and a 187-slot parking garage. The company also intends to build office space and a new store for Burris Liquor nearby.

"It's going to look like Charleston Place," said Clyde Burris, whose store has anchored the block for more than three decades. "It's going to be a first-class place, it really is."

Tara executives were out of the country this week and could not be reached for comment.

The project would boost capacity in the booming peninsula lodging market by 5 percent and threaten the prices and market share of other downtown hotels. But local hoteliers and developers said it would also incite more commerce, tourism and new businesses next to some of the peninsula's most crime-ridden streets.

The city of Charleston has tried to encourage new hotel construction nearby on upper King Street to spark redevelopment. Zoning Administrator Lee Batchelder said city planners are "supportive" of the plans they have seen so far.

Charleston-based Bennett-Hofford Co, which owns The Courtyards apartment complex and the Hampton Inn just south of the proposed site, also welcomed the news this week. "Anytime somebody goes north of me, I'm always happy," Mike Bennett said. "It may be some competition, but I'm not too worried about that."

Bennett plans to redevelop the three-acre Courtyards site in the next few years. A bustling hotel nearby would be a plus, he said.

In terms of competition, the companies that own the 3,631 hotel rooms on the peninsula have had it good, according to statistics from the College of Charleston's Hospitality Department. This year through October, they charged an average of $185.10 per room per night, higher than any other area of Charleston County and almost double the average rate nationwide. Downtown lodgings also are more full than most hotels nearby, with 79 percent occupancy so far this year.

The favorable numbers have not gone unnoticed, as a number of developers moved to cash in on the red-hot peninsula hotel market in recent years. Most of the new rooms are slated for real estate north of Calhoun Street.

Bennett-Hofford hopes to break ground the middle of next year to build a 185-room Hilton just north of Marion Square on King Street.

The Stoney Co. and local developer Deborah Rice-Marko are considering a 66-room boutique inn a little farther north at the intersection of King and

John streets. And Magnolia Development LLC is planning to

build a 100- to 150-room hotel on a 4.2-acre plot between King, Meeting and Spring streets, according to project manager Cope

Willis.

"Every block you get north, it's a little less desirable," said Stoney Co. co-owner Richard Stoney. "But I think it's going to be a totally new ball game up there."

John Crotts, head of the College of Charleston Hospitality Department, expects a 4 percent to 6 percent increase in area hotel rooms during the next few years.

"The land acquisition cost, combined with high construction costs, probably made a lot of the developments just not work out financially," Crotts said. "But the market seems to have grown to a price point where it's worthwhile now."

Tara Hospitality is owned by three Indian brothers who grew up in Kenya, moved to England and settled in America about four years ago, according to Hasil Patel, the 17-year-old son of Tara President Hasmukh Patel. Tara owns three gas stations in Georgia and South Carolina, hotels in Sumter, Selma and Nashville, and elementary schools and shopping centers in India. Tara is also building a new hotel in Savannah.

LS3P Associates Ltd., a Charleston-based architecture firm, will present the hotel proposal to Charleston's Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday.

Reach Kyle Stock at 937-5763 or . David Slade of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.


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