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Developer Robert L. Clement III Planning a 250-room Luxury
 Hotel in Downtown Charleston, South Carolina

By Kyle Stock, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 7, 2007 - A group of developers led by Robert L. Clement III is planning to build a 250-room luxury hotel between King and Meeting streets in downtown Charleston, a property known as Midtown.

Meanwhile, Charlotte-based Tara Hospitality Corp. has shelved its plans for a 180-room lodging on a nearby site.

The hotel being proposed by Clement and his partners would "anchor" an entire block of new construction, including work force housing and retail space. The developers filed for preliminary city approval this week.

"This is just a first step," Clement said Thursday. "If we are successful, then what we'll do is go ahead and program the rest of the site. ... We're excited about it."

With more beds than all but two peninsula properties, the hotel would draw more visitors to the Upper King area. It would push the number of rooms available for rent downtown to almost 4,000, a 7 percent increase, according to statistics from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Clement has teamed up on the development with Regent Partners LLC and Integral Urban Investments, both of Atlanta, and Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners. Organized as Regent Charleston LLC, the investors bought the 4.3-acre site at King, Meeting and Spring streets in August for $17 million.

In terms of competition, the hoteliers that own the existing 3,600 rooms on the peninsula have had it good. This year through October, the lodgings were 74 percent full on average and collected $181 per room per night, according to the chamber, almost 60 percent higher than the average U.S. rate.

Those numbers have not gone unnoticed. A rash of hotel plans have popped up downtown, including a 185-room Hilton proposed by Charleston-based Bennett Hofford Co. on the edge of Marion Square.

But several other projects have been scrapped before construction crews broke ground.

Tara Hospitality, for instance, is rethinking its plans after buying three plots of land on Meeting, between Reid and Woolfe streets, for $2.5 million last month. The company quickly won city approval for a 180-room lodging, including a spa, rooftop pool, restaurant, condominiums and parking garage.

Hasmukh Patel, Tara's president, declined Thursday to detail why his company shelved its plans. He said the decision was not based on financing issues or the hundreds of other rooms set to be built nearby.

"We had a few issues that we were trying to resolve," Patel said. "We've just decided to put it on hold and focus on the other projects that we have going right now. ... We still own the site, but at the moment we've got no plans for it."

The company is currently building a hotel in Savannah and another lodging in Nashville, Tenn.

Tara's decision comes on the heels of a similar announcement by Patrick Properties LLC, which owns Fish restaurant, the American Theatre and the William Aiken House. Last week, the company said it had canceled plans for a 66-room inn it was proposing to build behind its Upper King businesses.

Patrick Properties said it is focusing its efforts on its extensive renovation of Lowndes Grove Plantation, a historic property on the Ashley River that it bought in July for $6.7 million.

Elsewhere, plans for a 42-room hotel proposed for the corner of Meeting and Society streets were pulled last month after the would-be developer could not agree to a price on the land.

Regent Charleston said it is in no rush to break ground on its lodging. In addition to the endorsement of city planners, the group needs to secure the blessings of neighborhood associations and historic preservation groups.

"Once our process partners are comfortable and the city is comfortable, then we'll move forward," Clement said. "We'll move as fast as everyone is comfortable with."

The city is scheduled to review the hotel plans at a public meeting Dec. 18.

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To see more of The Post and Courier, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.charleston.net.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.

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