New hotel approved in Columbia SC’s Vista despite opposition

A combined Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel by Hilton is proposed for the corner of Gervais and Williams Streets in Columbia’s Vista.

A combined Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel by Hilton is proposed for the corner of Gervais and Williams Streets in Columbia’s Vista.

Naman Hotels rendering

A controversial seven-story hotel in downtown Columbia is moving forward after a city commission unanimously green-lit the project’s design Thursday, despite nearly an hour of public comments opposing the project.

The 249-room hotel is planned for a vacant L-shaped lot behind the McDonald’s at the corner of Gervais and Williams streets.

Residents who live near the proposed hotel have opposed the project since it was presented in May. Some have raised concerns that the nearly 100-foot tall building would tower over the City Club town homes across Williams Street. Others have worried its size will obstruct the view of Columbia for motorists entering the city from the Gervais Street bridge.

Among those in opposition are the Girl Scouts of South Carolina. The Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center, a primary gathering place for the organization, sits on the corner of Williams and Senate streets, directly across from the proposed hotel parking garage.

“The plan actually brings traffic right to our front door,” said Lora Tucker, CEO of the Girl Scouts of South Carolina Mountains to Midlands chapter. “We have hundreds of girls, young pedestrians, who walk to the State House, who walk to the state museum … these are young pedestrians and we’re very concerned about their safety.”

Several residents of City Club townhomes also spoke Thursday. Many said the proposal does not honor the long-term development goals of the area and reiterated that the building’s size was out of line with other buildings in the area.

“Everybody in our neighborhood wants new development,” said City Club resident Charles Leidecker. “But our message to (the developer) was, can you show us a design that respects the Vista district?”

Project architect Craig Otto said he and the developer have tried to appease residents’ concerns. The building’s height has been reduced from 95 feet to 93 feet tall, which he said is the most they could reduce it.

At least one group, the Vista Property owners association, supports the proposal as-is and believes the project will benefit the area. A letter from that organization’s president, Hal Stevenson, urged the design commission to “expeditiously” approve the proposal.

Despite concerns shared Thursday, design review commission members approved the project as long as it meets recommendations made by city staff.

A combined Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel by Hilton is proposed for the corner of Gervais and Williams Streets in Columbia’s Vista. City of Columbia DDRC

Details on proposal

The proposed Gervais Street project is a combined Homewood Suites and Tru Hotel by Hilton. Florence-based developer Ashok Patel of Naman Hotels is leading construction efforts.

A fitness center, an outdoor kitchen, fire pits and other amenities are included in the hotel design. The developer hopes to include space for artist’s studios as well, according to city documents.

A 430-space parking garage would be built at the southwest corner of the property. The garage would also be used by a future development on the same site, according to Otto. He said that project, which would sit on the same block on the corner of Huger and Senate streets, could be anything from student housing to a second hotel, but no formal plans have been made.

Naman Hotels did not respond to a request for more information Thursday.

The city’s design commission in May put the hotel plans on hold until it received new renderings of the proposed parking garage. After receiving more information on the project, city staff recommended it be approved, writing that the proposal “substantially meets” the area’s design guidelines.

The plan still must receive approval from the city’s planning commission, which previously deferred the project after referencing the design commission’s May ruling.

This story was originally published July 21, 2022 5:57 PM.

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Morgan Hughes covers Columbia news for The State. She previously reported on health, education and local governments in Wyoming and has won awards in Wyoming and Wisconsin for feature writing and investigative journalism. Morgan is new to the South but is having fun learning the quirks and culture of South Carolina.