All eyes on Spectator, new hotel in 'rising tide'

The Spectator Hotel is scheduled to open next spring near the City Market.

Some fresh numbers are in on The Spectator Hotel that's under construction at 67 State St. in the heart of the Historic District

Owners Jay Keenan and Batson Hewitt discussed their latest hotel project at a private event Thursday at the French Quarter Inn, where staff members, investors and community leaders, including Mayor Joe Riley, gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking.

Keenan said The Spectator, a 41-room boutique lodging, will be a "luxury hotel designed for guests to celebrate the mannerly old South."

Among the highlights he mentioned were private balconies in several rooms overlooking the historic City Market and East Bay Street, and private check-in desks for guests.

He also discussed how The Spectator will benefit the city's economy. About 45 to 50 employees will be hired to the hotel staff, who will be paid a combined $11 million over a 10-year period. The hotel will also pay $2 million in property taxes over the next 10 years, he said. The entire hotel project costs $16 million, says Hewitt.

"That's a good bit of income coming into the city of Charleston, and we're happy to do it," Keenan said.

Keenan and Hewitt, Charleston natives and real estate investors who own the French Quarter Inn and The HarbourView Inn, said they're not concerned about the other high-end boutique hotels rising nearby, such as The Kessler Collection's Grand Bohemian Hotel.

"The rising tide floats all boats," Keenan said. "We welcome more first-class hotels to Charleston."

The "co-opetition" among the world's shipping lines continues. The latest deal: An alliance among three ocean carriers will launch a new weekly service Monday between several cities along South America's west coast and the U.S. East Coast, including Charleston.

Other ship calls in the rotation include containerports in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Miami, Jacksonville and New York, according to a report at

The Andes Express Service is being operated by APL, Mitsui OSK Lines and Hyundai Merchant Marine with six vessels that can accommodate the equivalent of at least 2,700 20-foot-long containers, including refrigerated cargo.

Onetime rival ship owners have been forming alliances in recent years to cut costs.

A company that makes ballistic protection equipment has picked a city in Florida for its new headquarters, eliminating Charleston and other Southeast sites that had been vying for the $2 million investment, according to a recent news report.

Defenshield told the St. Augustine Record that its moving its corporate offices to St. Augustine. The headquarters will employ up to 20 workers. The capital investment was estimated at $2 million by the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, which said it's been in talks with Defenshield for more than a year, according to the report.

The company describes itself as a manufacturer of "bullet, blast and fragment resistant equipment for the government, military, law enforcement and the private sector for anti-terror, force protection and physical security requirements."

Defenshield is based in East Syracuse, N.Y., and it has an office in Washington, D.C. Other Southeast cities the firm said it considered for its new home included Charleston, Wilmington, Savannah and Jacksonville, says the report.

Among other reasons, Defenshield said it is moving because of high taxes in New York.

Google is looking for a few good gurus. Last fall, the search engine giant, which has a data center in Berkeley County, started an after-school program that created clubs to help students learn, explore and perhaps chart a course for careers in computer science.

Throughout the year, more than 80 volunteers worked with more than 1,200 students in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. And there are waiting lists to get in.

With plans to expand to even more middle schools in the Lowcountry and state this fall, Google needs more volunteers.

The gurus, as the volunteers are called, can be most anyone, such as technology professionals, business people, those with regular jobs and students. People can register to volunteer through their school district, receive brief training and are off with Google's classroom script and online tools.