Kessler Collection breaks ground on Charleston hotel, its 1st in South Carolina

This rendering shows the Grand Bohemian Hotel being built at 55 Wentworth St. The 50-room lodging will open in about a year and include an art gallery, rooftop restaurant and a wine tasting room.

Work began in earnest Wednesday on a hotel project 15 years in the making for the Kessler Collection.

The company known for its cluster of luxury boutique hotels in markets such as Savannah and Asheville found its ideal Charleston location for the $30 million Grand Bohemian Hotel at the site of an old bookstore at Meeting and Wentworth streets.

"I've never spent so much time looking for the right hotel site in any other city," said Richard Kessler, founder and CEO. "Because we do such a very unique, special kind of a hotel, it takes the right location to make it work."

The groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday kicked off a year of construction on the company's first South Carolina location, which is expected to open in early 2015.

Based in Orlando, Fla., the Kessler Collection has launched 10 small, locally inspired hotels in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado and New Mexico.

Although each lodging is meant to reflect its surroundings, the collection is unified by its Bohemian banner, which is an emphasis on music, art and fine dining.

The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Charleston, for example, will include a large art gallery - one of the largest yet in the Kessler Collection - featuring works by local and regional artists.

"I love art and music, they're my personal passions," Kessler said. "I think it brings in the local color, and people like that. It's the creative class who comes to our hotels and they want to experience something different and new. They want to discover something."

The 50-room hotel in Charleston will employ about 100 and feature a rooftop restaurant serving regional dishes and farm-to-table ingredients. There will also be a wine blending and tasting room with a particularly unique aspect, but Kessler said he couldn't offer details about it just yet.

"It's a unique concept that hasn't really been done in the hotel industry before, at least to my knowledge. The guests and local folks will really enjoy it," he said.

Charleston and Mountain Brook, Ala., are the latest sites to be added to the collection, but they're not the last.

Kessler said he expects to double the size of the collection within the next five years, with sights on Atlanta and Charlotte for his next projects.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail