GEORGETOWN, S.C. (WBTW) – The ground jolted as the first wall began to come down Monday morning at the old Georgetown Times building on Front Street.
Years in the making, the demolition is the first step toward making a boutique hotel in historic downtown a reality.
“We feel like the entire city is excited,” said Joe Keenan, the developer and general partner on the project, as a backhoe burst through more bricks.
When finished, The George Hotel will include 56 guest rooms, meeting space and an event lawn. It is projected to open in fall 2023.
COVID-19 put the project on pause for almost all of 2020. It saw more movement a few months ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it was granting a $10 million loan for the project.
Beth Stedman, the CEO of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, is excited to see the property be developed.
“Downhotel hotels certainly have been an important part of the history of Front Street,” Stedman said. “So it is great to see this revival of sorts having that type of property anchoring one end of the historic district.”
She expects the hotel to bring a new energy to Front Street as more and more tourists express interest in staying in historic areas.
“We see a lot of people who come in and spend the day, and wish they had made plans to stay longer,” Stedman said. “I think this property is going to be such a beautiful space in the middle of town that is just going to encourage people to stay longer.”
She hopes the hotel will create a ripple effect to create more jobs and businesses to historic downtown.
Final plans for the hotel were approved by the area’s architectural review board in December, according to Mark Stevens, the director of tourism development for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. Features include a restaurant and what Stevens is most excited about – event space overlooking the water.
“That will be a very important thing, because there isn’t anything specifically like that,” he said.
The county saw a tourism boost during the pandemic. After a day at the beach, he said visitors like spending their afternoons and weekends in historic Georgetown. An investment into the hotel, he said, is telling about the future of the Hammock Coast.
“I think it gives a new dimension to the historic district because that is not anything quite like that now, which is interesting and probably somewhat unusual,” Stevens said. “I just think it is going to add a new dimension to it – a hotel, and people coming in and out and dropping in.”
As the letters on front of The Georgetown Times building were removed, Keenan stepped up the ladder to pry one away.
He expects the project to have a positive economic impact on the area, and for the experience of staying directly next to the water to fulfill a need.
“People want to enjoy the views,” Keenan said, “and that’s what we provide.”