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Planned 150-room Embassy Suites Hotel for Savannah, Georgia Clears
Historic Review Board with Design Element Conditions

Next Step to Secure Variances from Zoning Board of Appeals

By Adam Van Brimmer, Savannah Morning News, Ga.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 10, 2011--The new Embassy Suites hotel planned for West Oglethorpe Avenue received a final blessing Wednesday from the Historic District Board of Review, albeit with a slew of conditions regarding design elements.

The developer of the 150-room hotel, to be built in a parking lot just east of the Thunderbird Inn, still needs to secure variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals before construction can begin.

The review board recommended the zoning board grant the variances, which involve the number of entrances on the main façade and the roofline on an accompanying parking garage.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will rule on the variances in its next meeting on Nov. 22.

The project avoided the public angst it met last month during its initial review. The head of the Historic Savannah Foundation, the local non-profit organization that strives to preserve the city's heritage through advocacy, education and community involvement, went so far at the Oct. 12 meeting as to encourage the architect to start over on the design.

Historic Savannah's Daniel Carey did not believe the building's design, which was modeled after 19th-century buildings in Savannah with an architectural nod toward the nearby Central of Georgia railroad complex, was the best for its location.

A Historic Savannah Foundation representative voiced more muted concerns Wednesday. A Savannah College of Art and Design official also spoke out about the project. SCAD's issue was with the hotel's impact on the urban streetscape.

SCAD's newly opened Museum of Art is located across the street that borders the proposed new hotel to the south.

Representatives for the developer, Charleston, S.C.-based Bennett Hospitality, reminded the board the project had previously been approved -- in 2007 -- and that the focus should be on the design changes made in response to the 2009 update of the historic district ordinance. The hotel's construction was initially postponed due to the economic downturn.

Local firm Greenline Architecture designed the exterior of the hotel.

"We have not tried to redesign the wheel here; we have not gone back and tried to redesign the entire building that was approved in 2007," the developer's local legal representative, attorney Brooks Stillwell, told the board. "Just look at the changes that were made in relation to the new regulations in the new ordinance."

The Historic Review Board voted unanimously to approve the project.

Bennett Hospitality has set a tentative opening date for the hotel of 2014.


(c)2011 the Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Ga.)

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