With 7 planned hotels, York County sees a hospitality boom

Business Editor

Rendering of a 5-floor, 108-room Fairfield Inn planned for near the Galleria.
Rendering of a 5-floor, 108-room Fairfield Inn planned for near the Galleria. provided photo

With the possibility of seven new hotels, York County should see a hospitality boom over the next two years.

Five hotels are planned for the area’s hospitality epicenter, the Dave Lyle Boulevard interchange with Interstate 77.

A new Hampton Inn opened in July across from Baxter Village in Fort Mill. On the other side of the interstate, a 125-room Courtyard by Marriott is planned in the Kingsley business park, along with new corporate offices for LPL Financial and the Lash Group.

The seventh hotel in the works is the much discussed – but so far commitment-less – small “boutique” hotel near Fountain Park in downtown Rock Hill. As envisioned, the hotel would have a large ballroom-conference center.

A number of factors are driving the boom, most significantly a bullish hotel economy locally that’s rebounding from a sluggish 2013. York County hotels saw about a 3 percent drop in occupancy and demand in 2013, which resulted in a 6 percent loss in revenue, according to industry data.

Things reversed in 2014. Occupancy rates increased 11 percent. The average daily room rate increased by almost 5 percent in 2014 and then 10 percent in 2015. Revenue growth was 16 percent in 2014 and almost 12 percent this year.

As encouraging as the two-year trend numbers are, tourism experts, hotel operators and developers see even more reason to get excited – and to build new properties.

Factors they say should increase the demand for rooms are:

▪ The success of the city’s Giordana Velodrome and the Novant Health BMX Supercross Track in the Riverwalk. The BMX track is slated to hold national and world championships that should bring thousands of additional “room nights” to area hotels. Sports tourism, they say, is driving demand across a range of room rates.

▪ The much-heralded economic hat trick of LPL Financial and the Lash Group headquarters on S.C. 160 and Giti tire plant in Richburg – all under construction. Also, Carowinds continues to expand, hoping to become a multi-day destination for tourists.

▪ The need to have new or up-to-date properties. Before the Hampton Inn opened near Baxter, the last new hotels in York County were the Holiday Inn and Town Place Suites near the Galleria, which opened in 2009. The age of a hotel is a factor in some guests’ decisions, and several major hotel brands require franchise owners to renovate their properties regularly.

Existing hotels that have undergone recent renovations include the Red Roof Inn on Riverview Road, the Quality Inn on Cherry Road and the Comfort Inn near Carowinds, according to local tourism and hotel officials.

Two hotel projects with local ownership connections are about to break ground.

The Warren Norman Co. is building a 5-floor, 108-room Fairfield Inn next to the Town Place Suites near the Galleria. Construction of the estimated $12 million to $14 million hotel is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

Gita Patel, who was named the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassador for the Year, and her husband, Shailesh, are partners in a new Hilton extended stay hotel called Home 2 Suites. They own the Country Inn Suites and Comfort Suites hotels in Rock Hill.

Milan Patel, another partner in the project, said the four-story, 108-room hotel will be on Bilwyn Drive, close to the Comfort Suites. Anticipated investment is $11 million with an opening in the second quarter of 2017.

Other hotel projects that have filed plans with the Rock Hill Planning Department are:

▪ Hotel at the Gateways of Galleria, a five-floor, 93-room project next to the Hampton Inn, near the Galleria.

▪ Legacy Suites, a four-floor, 113-room extended stay hotel at 1835 Canterbury Glen Lane, next to Clinton Family Ford.

▪ An unnamed, four-floor, 98-room hotel by Solara Investment at the corner of Springdale Road and Ivy Hills Lane.

If all of the planned hotels are built, the 570 new rooms would increase the area’s number of rooms by 20 percent. Currently there are 35 hotels in the county with 2,835 rooms.

Lisa Meadows, executive director of the Rock Hill-York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says even more hospitality growth is possible. Construction of discussed sports parks in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie could increase demand, she said. The Gold Hill Road interchange also could be a prime location for new hotels.

The projected boom comes as construction is picking up across all sectors, say developers. Some are already seeing shortages in glass and landscaping material. “You can’t make a two-inch tree,” said developer and project manager Skip Tuttle.

Rising costs, said Milan Patel, were a reason his group is moving ahead with the Home 2 Suites project. Increased costs could make future hotel projects financially unfeasible, he said.