The sun beat down over Charleston on a characteristically muggy late-April morning. An enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 gathered to commemorate the ceremonial beginning of a long-held dream, The Hotel at Marion Square, which represents so much more than a single building for the city and its residents – it stands for promise. A promise that hotel owner Michael Bennett, made to his mother, Virginia Bennett, that the hotel would break ground during her lifetime. Little did project backers know that it would take more than a decade to actually move dirt on the site located on King Street at Marion Square.
Attendees who joined to kick-off an auspicious beginning to this ambitious project included civic dignities such as Charleston’s former Mayor, Joe Riley; leaders for developer, Bennett Hospitality; representatives from general contractor, Balfour Beatty Construction; and countless South Carolinians invested both personally and professionally in the hotel’s success.
As each invited guest was well aware, rarely have hotel projects been faced with such an uphill battle to begin construction. In fact, due to preservationists’ outcries over its planned height and scale, the hotel took a decade of dogged planning and even a state Supreme Court ruling to bring to life. As each speaker in the program described, The Hotel at Marion Square is expected to become an integral part of Charleston’s historic district that fits within the culturally unique fabric of Main Street. Strategically planned and designed to support a vision for the city as a premier travel destination, the 208,000-square-foot, nine-story building will anchor an already robust and energized public realm.
Michael Bennett, founder and owner of Bennett Hospitality, spoke with palpable emotion about the project, which is under construction on a site he has owned for 21 years. He has lauded former Mayor Joe Riley’s long-standing perseverance in backing a project he vowed that, when complete, would stand the 100-year test. The reference pays homage to advice Riley gave Bennett in the early 1990s. “It will be built the way they built buildings a hundred years ago. [Mayor Riley] would always say, ‘Take the hundred-year view’…What does that mean? ... Do it right. Good materials. A hundred years.”
When referring to the importance of buildings in creating a “river of human activity” and maintaining an ecosystem of a city, former Mayor Joe Riley emphasized the impact that the Hotel at Marion Square will have in galvanizing the area’s economy. “A full service hotel is a building that citizens in the city use and connect with and memories are developed there.”
When the hotel opens its doors to guests in the fall of 2017, an anticipated 350 new jobs will have been created for locals. "We are honored to be part of the hotel at Marion Square, an iconic project for the city of Charleston, and to have the opportunity to work with the great team of visionaries at Bennett Hospitality," said Pat Dean, Carolinas division President, Balfour Beatty Construction. "This is a wonderful, transformational development that will bring new jobs and enrich Charleston residents and visitors for many years to come.”
Each day our jobsite team members arrive onsite, they are reminded of the promise they have been entrusted to fulfill. Each beam of steel, each brightly-colored vest, and especially the crane that towers impressively over the site is a visible reminder that The Hotel at Marion Square isn’t just a building. It is a structure that will symbolize a city’s storied history and steer its promising future. A hundred year building indeed.