Cities around South Carolina are finding a new opportunity for economic growth with a recent increase in the openings of downtown boutique-style hotels.
A interesting trend among these hotels is the fact they are locally owned and developed. Local entrepreneurs in Florence, Anderson and Beaufort looked to re-create the downtowns where they had grown up with their visions of these niche hotels.
Florence developer Grey Raines opened the 49-room Hotel Florence in a renovated early 20th century building in what once was the city’s main downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district. Less than five years after opening, Raines and his partners are planning an expansion of the hotel.
Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said he saw the hotel project as a catalyst for revitalizing the city’s downtown core—a catalyst that would bring people to the area after dark.
In Beaufort, developer Matt McAlhaney said he knew there was a void in Beaufort for a downtown boutique hotel. The market for affordable hotel rooms, largely for families coming to watch basic-training graduations at Marine Depot Parris Island, was covered mostly by quality national chains. Downtown has a number of bed-and-breakfast operations that offer luxury, but focus on a different type of traveler.
“The stimulus of that one project has taken a street that was nothing but a thoroughfare and turned it into a center of commerce,” Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said of his city’s boutique hotel, City Lofts.
City Lofts was built without financial incentives from the city. “The only city investment was encouragement,” Keyserling said.
In Anderson, developer Steve Kay noted the idea for The Bleckley Inn came after the Budweiser Clydesdales visited the city. The horses were put up in the old livery stable downtown, but the trainers who worked with the horses had to leave town each night during the visit to get to their hotel room.
Kay put together three buildings that were gutted and renovated into hotel rooms. The city was able to provide a grant of $40,000 a year for five years and about $100,000 in infrastructure improvements.
Anderson Mayor Terence Roberts hailed Kay’s local connections as a major part of his business’ success.
In just the past couple of months, the City of Lake City welcomed the opening of the Inn at the Crossroads. And the City of Hartsville will welcome a new hotel in early 2015.
Read more about these local hotels in the October Uptown.