Dewberry Charleston makes partial debut

The Dewberry Charleston across from Marion Square has been in the works since 2008. The hotel opened part of its rooms and suites Wednesday after the city issued a temporary certificate of occupancy.

More than eight years in the making, the newest luxury hotel on the peninsula opened for business Wednesday afternoon — or at least part of it did.

The Dewberry Charleston obtained permission to allow guests to check in to 47 of its 155 rooms and suites at 334 Meeting St., across from Marion Square. Approved around 2 p.m., the temporary “certificate of occupancy” is limited to the second and third floors of the seven-story structure and is valid for 30 days, city spokesman Jack O’Toole said.

On its website this week, the hotel said it would be ready for guests on July 13. The planned opening date had been pushed back several times before.

Dewberry officials did not respond to requests for comment this week.

The downtown hotel previously requested and received a certificate of occupancy for the first floor only so it could hold the Spoleto Festival USA 40th Season Soiree in late May.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about that,” O’Toole said of the city’s approval of temporary “COs.”

The abbreviated opening of the guest rooms upstairs is a big milestone for what is certain to be one of the city’s most luxurious lodgings.

Construction began in fall of 2014 on the redevelopment of the former L. Mendel Rivers Federal Building.

Dewberry Capital, a real estate firm based in Atlanta and led by part-time Charleston resident John Dewberry, bought the vacant property for $15 million in a government auction in 2008. The city approved the hotel plans in 2010.

As renovation work began to wind down in the spring, the project came under fire from nearby residents after a rooftop bar identified as the Citrus Club was featured in an online review. The swanky watering hole with panoramic views also appeared on an archived version of the hotel’s own website.

The issue was that city zoning officials never approved a rooftop bar. They still haven’t, O’Toole said Wednesday.

References to the Citrus Club have been removed from The Dewberry’s website.

In a rare interview about the project, Dewberry told The Post and Courier in late 2014 that the redevelopment project could cost as much as $100 million to complete. He declined to elaborate about the delays except to say the process was “tough.”

The Dewberry is his first hotel under the developer’s namesake brand. It will be among the priciest hotel options on the peninsula. According to an online search, the standard daily rate for rooms over the weekend of July 22 run between $311 and $560.

“The Dewberry Hotel, both inside and out, is truly a manifestation of John Dewberry’s vision of ‘Southern Reimagined,’” according to its website.

Vangie Rainsford, president of the Garden District Neighborhood Association, is not impressed so far. In addition to the rooftop bar flap, she said she and her group have had trouble getting Dewberry officials to answer their questions.

“It’s been like pulling teeth,” she said Tuesday.

Rainsford also said she plans to ensure The Dewberry meets each of 11 zoning conditions its owner agreed to when the city approved the hotel — from landscaping the parking lot to trash pickup and delivery guidelines.

“This is definitely a quality-of-life issue,’ Rainsford said.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572.