The peninsula’s first new full-service hotel in more than a decade is open, establishing a new anchor for a rapidly changing section of downtown Charleston after years of delays.

Room numbers

Charleston County’s hotels registered an average occupancy rate of 70.5% for all of 2012, up slightly from the previous year. The average daily room rate rose faster to $123.40, up 5.2% for the year. Peninsular Charleston reported the top occupancy rate last year, at just shy of 80%.

Source: College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis

The 120-room Holiday Inn Charleston Historic Downtown, which was developed by Charlotte-based Tara of Charleston LLC and is part of the InterContinental Hotels Group chain, welcomed its first guests Wednesday.

The five-story lodging at Meeting and Woolfe streets includes three suites and 23 specialty rooms with private patios, as well as a restaurant and tapas bar,

“Charleston is a key market where we believe this new Holiday Inn hotel will thrive,” said Jim Anhut senior vice president of brand management at InterContinental.

The hotel is a pioneer in that its location on upper Meeting is several blocks north not only from its nearest rivals but from the heart of the city’s bustling tourist district.

Tara has said it was encouraged by the renewed interest in that area among retailers, restaurants and real estate investors. Greystar, for example, is nearing completion on a 200-unit upscale apartment complex on the next block up from the Holiday Inn, at Meeting and Spring streets. Also, a rival 238-room hotel has been proposed as part of the nearby Midtown project.

The Holiday Inn is at the front end of a growing wave of new hotel developments that could swamp the peninsula’s lodging industry. About 1,500 rooms are either being built or are in the planning stages for the downtown area. If all are completed, the total inventory would swell by more than 40 percent.

After several years of fits and starts, Tara broke ground on the Holiday Inn in the fall of 2011.

By then, the project was already more than five years in the making. Tara acquired the land in 2006 for $2.5 million.

Construction was delayed in part because of the recession that began in late 2007. Also, the project was scaled back from its original concept of 180 guest rooms and about two dozen residential condominiums when a deal to use an adjacent piece of land fell through.

The company said it decided to proceed because downtown Charleston had outperformed most of its peers in terms of occupancy rates and room rates. That trend hasn’t changed.

The last full-service hotel built on the peninsula was the Market Pavilion at East Bay and Market streets. It opened in August 2002.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.