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The Folly Beach, South Carolina Holiday Inn Receiving a $5.5 million
 Renovation; Possibly a New Brand

By Allyson Bird, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 8, 2008 - FOLLY BEACH -- A nine-story pink building rises at the end of Center Street like a beacon to the sea, but that's about to change.

At least the pink part.

By March the Folly Beach Holiday Inn, under its new ownership, will present a new face in earthy shades of brown.

"No pink. We promise," said Lisa Weitz of Avocet Properties, the company managing the hotel.

The Holiday Inn at Folly Beach is getting a makeover.

Her husband, Jonathan Weitz, serves as president of Avocet and the Holiday's Inn's new owner, 1 Center Street LLC -- a group named for the hotel's address. In addition to himself, 1 Center Street consists of "two private investors who wish to remain private," Jonathan Weitz said.

Luckily, they're not so bashful about renovations.

From floor to ceiling, the hotel will take on a new, decidedly less '80s look. The lobby will have a jellyfish-styled chandelier and sisal rugs on the ceiling that mimic the waves outside.

"We're headed toward an abstract theme of being under the sea, but not in a kitschy way," said Matt Barba, Avocet's vice president.

The Avocet group will tear down the staircase and build one with a curved glass design. They'll redo the first floor in weathered hardwood. And they'll move the front desk, so it won't be a guest's first impression.

Standing in the lobby, Jonathan Weitz said, "You walk into a hotel at Folly Beach and wonder, 'Where's the ocean?'"

He, his wife and Barba worked together for Virginia billionaire Bill Goodwin's lodging development team. Their past projects include the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island, The Hermitage in Nashville and The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

They launched Avocet in 2006, and 1 Center Street purchased the 132-room Holiday Inn in March. Avocet plans to spend $5.5 million in renovations.

The question the group hears most: Is it trying to turn Folly into the next Kiawah? No, the investor says.

"We believe in Folly Beach as a destination. It has that cool, funky Key West feel," Jonathan Weitz said. "It just needs a push toward that edge."

Rooms at the hotel have fetched an average daily rate of $175 this year. Jonathan Weitz said that price should only increase $5 to $10 the first year after renovations.

The property will remain a Holiday Inn, because a franchise agreement locks in that brand until November 2010. But the new ownership group is working with the holding company to consider other hotel flags that might fit better when the time comes.

The goal, according to Avocet, is to make the hotel competitive with downtown properties that traditionally attract business conferences. That way, the Holiday Inn will have steady occupancy even beyond the beach season.

"The location and the view dictate it should," Jonathan Weitz said.

On Nov. 3 the hotel's doors will shut, and they won't reopen until March 5. The dining room will emerge as a restaurant ready to compete with the downtown scene, Barba said. Each guest room will have balconies that meet code, air-conditioners that really do cool and bathrooms with new tile and countertops, according to Jonathan Weitz.

Folly Beach Mayor Carl Beckmann welcomes the changes, saying visitors will get more value for their money.

As for the pink, "I think it's going to be for the good," Beckmann said. "Because that's the ugliest building on Folly Beach."

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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) 2008, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.

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