Work ready to start on $101M Marion Square hotel

Bennett Hospitality has demolished this former Charleston County library building on the King Street side of Marion Square for a new hotel.

Bennett Hospitality is ready to kick off construction of its long-planned hotel next to Marion Square, more than a decade after the high-rise lodging was first proposed for one of Charleston’s most prominent public spaces.

The project is valued at $101 million, according to a statement released Thursday, which could make it the priciest private real estate investment ever on the peninsula.

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Monday with hotel developer Michael Bennett and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.Details about the King Street project will be released at the noon event, according to the statement.

The full-service hotel was first proposed in 2004 for the site of a now-demolished Charleston County library branch, but it was delayed for years by a zoning dispute.

The proposed 105-foot-tall structure drew the ire of preservationists, who sued over the height and scale, even though it wouldn’t be as tall as the nearby Francis Marion Hotel across the street. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled 3-2 in 2012 that Bennett’s project could go forward.

Bennett’s Library Associates LLC went before the city’s Board of Architecture Review for approval of the building in 2013. Its plans at the time showed a 185-room, eight-story hotel with underground parking, a rooftop pool, ballroom, meeting space, ground-floor retail shops and intricate details such as copper roofing, gas lanterns and decorative ironwork.

Bennett Hospitality currently owns Hilton, Marriott, Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites properties in the region as well as other real estate investments and restaurants, including 39 Rue de Jean and Virginia’s on King.

His company also own hotels in Florida, Georgia and Montana, and it’s working on a deal to develop land owned by the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum on the Mount Pleasant waterfront.

Bennett was part of the group that bought the old Marion Square library site from Charleston County 20 years ago for $3.6 million. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.