Everything “that’s old is new again” is becoming commonplace at Charlestowne Hotels.
The addition of Atlanta’s famed Hotel Clermont brings the number of Charlestowne Hotel’s most-recent preservation properties to five. That portfolio includes The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens in St. Augustine, FL; The Fairlane Hotel in Nashville, TN; The Bristol Hotel in Virginia; and The Foundry Hotel in Asheville, NC. The Bristol and The Foundry each are scheduled to open in the Fall of 2018.
“These types of projects can be more cost effective for developers than a ground-up project,” said Gavin Philipp, VP, operations for Charlestowne Hotels, based in Charleston, SC. “Also, many of the developers and owners we partner with are just cut from this type of cloth, and want to do something different.
“Because of the true uniqueness of each project, I believe it will be difficult for this to become overplayed. It's a bigger thing than just being another hotel.”
For the Hotel Clermont project, Charlestowne Hotels worked in partnership with Oliver Hospitality to oversee renovations for the nearly century-old hotel, which it now manages. Standing above the Clermont Lounge, an Atlanta institution, the 94-room boutique property pays tribute to nine decades of Atlanta history.
Charlestowne also worked closely with local partners, including the Georgia Historic Preservation Division and National Parks Service, to develop an updated identity for the Clermont.
“We looked to integrate modern, luxury amenities and services while still utilizing Hotel Clermont's eccentric background as a foundation for brand development,” said Michael Tall, President and COO of Charlestowne Hotels. “The hotel’s historic significance is an intrinsic storytelling element that guides the rest of our programming, dining and guest experiences.”
The Clermont is unique in several ways, including its 15 bunk rooms with en-suite bathrooms, and modernist twin bunk beds that sleep up to four people per room. It’s also unique in the Charlestowne portfolio in that it’s the only property that began life as a hotel as the company has specialized in adaptive re-use projects.
“Taking an existing building with some historical significance, and turning it in to a unique hospitality asset that pays homage to that story/history, while also providing a quality lodging and F&B experience,” is the company’s forte, Philipp said.
The Collector, for example, is located near the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district and is on the site of the former Dow Museum of Historic House. It’s a one-acre garden compound comprising nine historic homes, dating from 1790 to 1910. Spanning a city block in downtown St. Augustine, the site also served as a 16th Century hospital and cemetery; an 18th Century Spanish defense line; and, in 1863, was a setting for a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation that freed Florida’s slave population. Now that’s history.
Meanwhile, the 65-room Bristol hotel will open within one of the city's more architectural landmarks—a former executive plaza. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is connected to the hotel, which is being touted as the centerpiece in the revitalization of the city’s downtown.
The Foundry, located in a famous Asheville neighborhood known as “The Block,” will be an 87-room hotel that was once the Asheville Supply & Foundry Co. The hotel features the brick facade and large windows of the old company.
The Fairlane, at one time the Nashville headquarters of the now defunct Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan, has kept the property’s Terrazzo flooring, original wood paneling and travertine columns, brass elements, interior plants and open floor plans.
Each project, Philipp said, has its own special challenges and opportunities. The most challenging? Probably The Foundry.
“It has combined three existing historic buildings with two new buildings, creating almost a resort or campus setting in a downtown urban environment,” Philipp said.
When working with historic and executive buildings, he added, Charlestowne focuses on four things: collaboration, diligence, flexibility, and patience.
“Collaboration speaks to the need to keep multiple teams aligned and moving towards a shared goal,” he said. “We facilitate these discussions so that decisions are made with the operational and guest experience of the hotel in mind.
“Diligence refers to the power of educating yourself on the legal, political, and economic factors that affect your project. When dealing with an existing structure, one must be flexible. Evaluate the building’s constraints and use them as a guide. Above all, you must manage the process with patience.”
And you have to know history.