The impact of the 2020 COVID pandemic devastated the hospitality industry, with many hotels, shuttered to cut their losses, and most others suffering their lowest occupancies ever. But a few special properties have broken the norms, and have never slowed down: to wit, Homewood Suite, Savannah. Located on the Savannah River in the heart of the historic district, ‘sold-out’ is old news. The owner says, “Give me a hotel with balconies overlooking the river, and we’re in business.”
The city is extremely protective of its treasure – the historic downtown district, regarded as one of the most inviting in the country. A new building in the district must be deemed “appropriate” by the Historic Review Board to be permitted. That doesn’t mean developers have to imitate the 18th/19th century architecture. But rather, the requirement is to respect the built legacy of the city with the new arrivals being in scale, in massing and in harmony with their elderly neighbors. With the Homewood Suites, this meant the façade had to be mostly masonry (brick and stone), had to have broken massing with façade in’s and out’s and parapet up’s and down’s. Further, window proportions had to sync with the golden 3- to-5 window proportions common to the city. The stone had to natural, so we specified rough-cut granite, straight from a quarry in Elberton, GA.
The primary entry to the hotel is on River Street, but access to the city is a story higher on Bay Street, which required creative foundation steps for the transition. The site was further challenged with both weak and contaminated soils. Deep foundation and careful handling/disposal of the hazardous materials were required. During excavation, an ancient pirate’s tunnel was uncovered, creating the expected buzz among the historic preservationists.
The hotel was given a bonus story of building height by the city, in return for the developer committing to extra ‘green’ features in the building. A 10,000 SF array of solar panels is on part of the roof, and remaining roof areas have intense roof gardens. Rainwater is harvested in a cellar cistern, for use in landscape irrigation.
- Savannah, GA