After years of rapid supply growth, Charleston's hotel pipeline is still full to bursting.
According to the most recent hotel forecast from the commercial real estate firm CBRE, about 35 lodging projects with a combined 4,000 rooms are in the works for the region.
The road to Hotel Bennett's opening day hasn't been an easy one. The 179-room, $100 million-plus full-service property at the former site of the county’s main library has been in the works for more than 13 years. Its planning process involved a state Supreme Court case and two trips through the city's building, zoning and design approval processes.
Its developer, Michael Bennett of Charleston-based Bennett Hospitality, has called the hotel the "biggest project" of his career.
When the European-style property welcomes its first guests next month, the lodging will set a new pricing standard for the Charleston peninsula, offering multiple suites that cross the $2,000 threshold.
The opening will also solidify a northern shift of downtown tourist activity. Hotel Bennett joins two mainstays, the Francis Marion Hotel and another Bennett holding, the downtown Embassy Suites, around Marion Square.
In the last few years, two new high-end lodgings also opened nearby. The Dewberry, where the once-contested rooftop bar recently started slinging mai tais, has welcomed guests on Meeting Street since mid-2016. Just steps away from the square on Calhoun Street, Hotel Bella Grace, an independently branded boutique Marriott property, opened late this summer.
The new 92-room Hyatt Place hotel at Mount Pleasant Towne Centre is now accepting reservations for April 2019 and beyond. The developer is Charleston-based Four 17, which also opened the Foundry Hotel in downtown Asheville this November.
A new Home2 Suites on Savannah Highway in West Ashley is also accepting reservations for early 2019. According to its website, guests can book stays as soon as Jan. 6. Palas Hospitality, which also operates the Town and Country Inn across the street, built the hotel at the site of a former bowling alley.
After opening its first Charleston-area hotel this year, Choice Hotels' Cambria brand will launch its second flag this spring. Located in West Ashley near the Ripley Point Marina, the hotel is accepting reservations starting in mid-March. It's one of eight Cambria hotels open or in the pipeline in South Carolina and one of three in the Charleston area. The first opened in Mount Pleasant, and a third is being built in North Charleston.
The Isle of Palms getaway Wild Dunes Resort announced this year that it would add a 150-room hotel with a conference center and rooftop wedding venue. The expansion will also include a spa and pool area. Site work began this year, and it's expected to open in 2020.
The development firm for the expansion, Lowe, is also a partner in the plans for a luxury hotel planned for the site of the State Ports Authority headquarters on Concord Street, next to Charleston's Waterfront Park. Plans to make an additional 400 feet of land along Charleston Harbor accessible to the public were approved in September.
Across the water in Mount Pleasant, a 175-room Embassy Suites will be rising near the foot of the Ravenel Bridge in the coming year. Another Bennett Hospitality holding, the almost-waterfront hotel will be part of the Ferry Wharf mixed-use complex in Mount Pleasant. Construction started this month, and its opening is slated for 2020.
An adjacent parking garage and a five-story office building called Portside, which is between the hotel and the water, have already been under construction for several months.
Several new hotel projects on the Charleston peninsula — spanning from City Market to Upper Meeting — received initial approvals in 2018 and will be looking to move further through the city's process.
A proposed boutique lodging may be moving into the former Bob Ellis Shoes store. Plans show space for retail facing King Street with the hotel entrance and a cafe nestled behind it, off of a cobblestone path and courtyard that spills onto George Street.
Charleston's Board of Architectural Review gave its preliminary approval for the plans earlier this month. Final approval is needed before the project moves forward.
More approvals are also needed for a 50-room property near City Market. The site, which now houses the Asian fusion restaurant Sushi Blue, is approved for 50 hotel rooms.
Though the demolition date for the existing building hasn't been set, fans of the restaurant's seafood and steak should probably go sooner rather than later. Permission to demolish the building has already been granted, and developers plan to take the structure down in 2019.
Farther north on the Charleston peninsula, three Meeting Street sites also recently gained approval to become hotels. The Charleston-based Montford Group is behind all three, including one where the group hopes to build the city's first flatiron building.
Many more hotel projects are in the works, including the possible conversion of a site that was an office building — and, before that, a landfill — and an East Bay Street project that may unearth some historical secrets. A "pop-up" hotel concept also made an appearance on a December Charleston zoning board agenda, but the item was deferred.