A new lodging concept was approved this month for Charleston's growing Westside, making it the first hotel to get city approval under newly approved accommodations rules.
The project, which will be built on Spring Street near the Ashley River bridges and across from the Medical University of South Carolina, is "not a traditional hotel," said Jeffrey Roberts, a managing member at JJR Development in Charleston.
The lodging will be "symbiotic" with the peninsula's hospital district, Roberts said, and marketed to medical device sales representatives and technicians, patients and their families, visiting scholars and others who would benefit from being within walking distance of MUSC and Roper St. Francis.
"It's really a niche need that hadn't been filled," Roberts said.
The site is directly across from Courtenay Street, which leads into the medical district. It would neighbor some fast-food restaurants, a Publix supermarket and the rising WestEdge development.
Several chain hotels are already located nearby. A special exception to build a hotel has also been granted for the 10-story former MUSC office building nearby on Hagood Avenue.
But Roberts said his group found during focus sessions that the in-between nature of a flexible-stay model, which doesn't require leases but feels more like an apartment complex, was in demand among professionals, patients and students coming to the medical district.
There won't be a minimum number of nights guests have to stay — a visitor could come for just one night — but Roberts said the "sweet spot" for the lodging will be customers who need a place for a month or even a few months at a time.
Every unit will be outfitted with full kitchens and washer-dryers and will range from about 400 to 900 square feet.
Plans for the complex show five stories with a ground floor for check-ins and a second floor with meeting space and conference space. A garden would be between the two main sections of the complex, and 111 parking spaces will be provided on-site.
Initially, JJR had acquired just 210 Spring, formerly the site of a Pizza Hut. The restaurant was torn down, the parcel was completely rezoned, and a 69-unit apartment-style extended-stay concept was planned and approved for the property.
Then, in late 2018, the adjacent lot, which had been a gas station and convenience store, was put up for sale. It was purchased for about $2.9 million, according to Charleston County property records, and brought into the existing lodging plans, bumping the unit count up to 152.
The site was added to the zone where the city allows hotels in mid-May. That was right around the time Charleston reached a tipping point as it looked at ways to rein in hotel development.
That month, a task force started meeting to update the hotel regulations, with the goal of making it more difficult for large projects to be built on the peninsula.
The new rules still leave room for big developments with up to 250 rooms, but the barriers to getting approval are higher. Hotels can't replace current or recent offices or residences and large lodgings have to include more meeting space.
City Council adopted the final version of the ordinance this week, but it's been in effect, for the most part, since May, when the first draft was finalized.
Plans for the Spring Street lodging were submitted in late August, and JJR plans to submit designs to the Board of Architectural Review in the next couple months, according to Roberts.
He said the building will resemble a "bigger sibling" of the original design, before the gas station lot was acquired. If all goes as planned, Roberts hopes to break ground within the next eight months.