The developer of a six-story Hyatt Place hotel planned for Gervais Street in The Vista says construction could begin within 30 days and be finished in October 2014.
Critics have complained that the hotel is too tall. But downtown boosters say the hotel is needed to attract larger events and meetings to the nearby Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center and to continue to increase visitors to The Vista.
“While our convention center is really successful, we do need additional rooms to serve it,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which guides and encourages development in The Vista and other areas of the city. “That will have a huge effect on our ability to attract larger conventions and meetings. And the effect of an additional 120 to 150 people a night staying in your neighborhood, eating in our restaurants and shopping” will be big.
But the project is not without its opponents.
The 130-room hotel was approved by City Council in October 2012 over the objections of other nearby hoteliers and some Vista residents because of its height. The nearby Hilton Columbia Center and Hampton Inn, owned by Greenville developer Bo Aughtry and others are five stories tall.
During the approval process, critics claimed that the six-story Hyatt Place was getting special treatment because, they said, other hotels were required not to exceed five stories.
However, the Hyatt received the approval of the city planning and design review commissions, as well as City Council, because codes allow 75 feet of height if the upper floor is set back three feet from the front edge of the building.
Efforts to reach Aughtry were unsuccessful. However, in a recent opinion column that ran in The State he said the building sets a bad precedent and would destroy the character of the former warehouse district, which has blossomed into a shopping and entertainment area.
An attorney for the Hilton and Hampton Inn said the owners have not filed suit to try to stop the construction. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is a co-owner of the Hilton.
The Hyatt will be located on what is now a parking lot between the former Columbia Supply building that houses Jason’s Deli and the DuPre Building, which houses the SakiTumi Grill & Sushi Bar and is undergoing renovations to house commercial real estate firm NAI Avant’s corporate headquarters.
The hotel will be located at the front of the lot facing Gervais Street, with a porte-cochere (a drive-up reception area) and a small parking lot along Lady Street. Guests also will park in a nearby city parking garage.
The first floor of the building facing Gervais Street will be mostly retail space – 3,000 square feet – with a walk-in entrance to the hotel.
A sidewalk will run the length of the hotel between it and the Columbia Supply building, connecting Gervais and Lady streets.
About a century ago, a company manufactured and sold gas to city residents at the site. Contaminated soil at the site already has been removed by the Miller-Valentine company, which owns the lot and has offices in the adjacent Columbia Supply building that it renovated.
Miller-Valentine had envisioned a mixed use retail, office and residential building, before deciding to sell the lot to Atlanta’s Noble Investment Group to build the hotel.
The Noble Investment Group has dozens of hotels – all Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt brands – on the East Coast, the Midwest and the South. It owns one other Hyatt Place in South Carolina. The 126-room hotel in Greenville is in the city’s east side shopping and dining district.
Kevin Grass, Noble’s head of design and construction, told The State last week that the Atlanta firm Evergreen Construction has been hired as the general contractor. He said site preparation permits have been issued and vertical construction could begin in six weeks.
No building permit has been issued, according to the city planning department, as the company has submitted some last minute changes to the project.
Planning administrator John Fellows said the architects still have to present some storefront, awning and signage details to city staff and apply for an encroachment permit; but, he termed those submissions routine and said they shouldn’t hold up construction.
“It’s going to be a great hotel and a good-looking property,” Grass said.
Hyatt Place on Gervais by the numbers
An Atlanta developer is set to build a new Hyatt Place hotel on Gervais Street. Some critics think it is too tall.
6: Number of stories
5: Number of stories of nearby hotels
30: Projected number of days until construction begins
130: Number of rooms planned
89,500: Square footage of the hotel
40 to 50: Employees to be hired