PROPERTY MATTERS: Ritz-Carlton hotel planned for historic downtown high-rise office building

A historic downtown high-rise office building overlooking Johnson Square will be rehabilitated for use as a Ritz-Carlton hotel, under a plan approved by the Historic District Board of Review on Oct. 11.


Miami-based Studio Mc+G Architecture’s petition includes the restoration of the historic 15-story building at 2 East Bryan St., which was built in 1911 as the Savannah Bank & Trust. The scope of work for the building down the street from City Hall includes the replacement of the front door to match the original and installation of new awnings along Bull and Bryan that are inspired by a historic photo and restoration of the stone facade.


The plan also includes renovations of the adjacent non-historic office building at 14 East Bryan St. for residential and commercial use. The renovations include the addition of two floors of residences, and a limited thirteenth floor to allow for a small kitchen to service a pool deck, on the 10-story building, which was built in 1976.

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: Ritz-Carlton hotel planned for historic downtown high-rise office building (2)
Image of 14 E. Bryan St. and rendering of the building following the proposed renovations, as submitted by Studio Mc+G Architecture.


The proposed project will open up the ground levels to the public, with a hotel lobby, restaurant and bar, according to the petition.


The building’s owner is listed on the plans as TMGOC Ventures out of Charleston, South Carolina and Boca Raton, Florida. The project will include a 100-key luxury full-service hotel and 20 branded residences, according to the company’s website.


The plan comes after workspace provider, Expansive, announced in March 2021 the debut of private offices, office suites, and co-working space at the location after renovating the building into a “state-of-the-art workspace for one to 100-person companies,” according to a press release issued at the time.


The plan is the latest in a series of acquisitions of downtown office buildings set to be converted into hotels. New York-based LEFT LANE is converting the Manger building, also located at Johnson Square, from office buildings into a hotel, the historic building’s original use. The Marriott also recently acquired the HunterMaclean building at 200 East Saint Julian St. In addition, the historic Realty Building at 24 Drayton St. was recently sold for $14.2 million, although plans have not been publicly announced by the buyer.


The board's approval on Wednesday followed support from Historic Savannah Foundation's Ryan Jarles, the nonprofit's director of preservation and historic properties. HSF appreciates that someone is willing to spend the amount of money and time to ensure the viability of the historic building, Jarles said. In addition, the plan to activate the ground level of the adjacent building and bring back residences there was found to be "highly favorable," he said.

click to enlarge PROPERTY MATTERS: Ritz-Carlton hotel planned for historic downtown high-rise office building (3)
Rendering of the building’s facades following the proposed renovations, as submitted by Studio Mc+G Architecture.


Not all of the public speakers were for the project. Andrew Jones, founder of the Oglethorpe Plan Coalition, had voiced concerns about the planned additions to 14 E Bryan St.


"This is going to fundamentally change the Savannah skyline and I think there should be more focus on what is going on in this area and what its appearance should be," Jones said.


The loss of office space downtown is behind an effort to demolish three buildings west of Forsyth Park's south end, where the owners want to build an office complex and an underground garage, according to David Paddison, president of Sterling Seacrest Partners, which owns one of the building at 1001 Whitaker St. The demolition recently cleared a hurdle after the Savannah City Council recently denied a recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission to add the buildings as "contributing" historic structures to the Victorian Historic District.


Paddison said that the office complex and garage plan is intended to prevent the complete exodus of professional business employees from downtown.


"If we don't do something to hold onto these jobs that work downtown, eat downtown, entertain, it will have a huge economic dislocation to the city," he said.

Eric Curl

Connect Savannah Freelance Correspondent I Eric Curl is probably reading building permits, sales records and meeting agendas. He writes Property Matters to share what he finds. You can find the column, along with other stories, cartoons and quizzes about local matters at Savannahagenda.com.
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