The official ribbon cutting on the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel and the adjoining 300 South Tryon office building on Thursday was a landmark for Charlotte.
The $330 million project was the first office tower to break ground after the recession ground local development to a halt. In that sense, its completion marks the beginning of a new chapter.
But it’s also the latest in what’s been a flurry of hotel construction in Uptown Charlotte.
The 195-room Springhill Suites, the odd-shaped but colorful hotel across from the Spectrum Center, opened in April.
The 250-room Embassy Suites opened in March.
And on the smaller end of the scale, the 42-room Ivey’s boutique hotel opened in April as well.
These will soon be joined by the 300-room AC Hotel/Residence Inn under construction on top of the EpiCentre.
More hotels are certain to follow in the coming years. Nearly every mixed-use development on Stonewall Street and elsewhere Uptown has a hotel component planned at this stage.
[Agenda story: The hotel building boom is real]
All that understandably raises the question — are we good on Uptown hotels? Do we need more? Can Charlotte support more?
The consensus still seems to be that we don’t have enough hotel rooms Uptown quite yet.
“We are still underserved in rooms,” said Darryl Dewberry, CEO of The Spectrum Companies and the developer on the Kimpton project. “We could probably still use some more.”
Now the Kimpton, in particular, is something of a special niche in the hotel business, a boutique serving travelers looking for a more luxurious rather than purely economical stay.
But Kimpton CEO Mike Defrino described Charlotte as an attractive market for the hotel and hospitality industry in general.
Despite the addition of more hotel rooms, pricing has remained steady — meaning hoteliers have not had to drop prices from oversupply. There are strong drivers of hotel demand, including new and relocating businesses around the center city.
And Defrino even described Charlotte as a city with large “leisure demand.” This might make you chuckle since Charlotte certainly doesn’t have a reputation as a tourist destination. But Defrino said that between people coming to visit family, wedding parties, business travelers who extend a stay over the weekend and visitors to sporting events and the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte qualifies.
He said Charlotte is nowhere near the peak of its growth.
“I think the market is robust,” he said.
Of course, you’d expect optimism about the hotel market from CEOs who just cut the ribbon on a new hotel.
And Defrino even semi-jokingly said that he hopes future hotel growth is logical and restrained to keep the market from getting diluted.
But compared with truly big cities, Charlotte still ranks well behind in downtown hotel rooms. In fact, it’s been a big knock against the city when it tried to land big-time events.
During the Democratic National Convention in 2012, visitors had to spread well outside the center city to find lodging. And hosting a Super Bowl would likely hinge on having more rooms near Bank of America Stadium.
Even landing large conventions could take more Uptown hotel rooms. There’s been talk for years about building a 1,000-plus room hotel somewhere near the convention center (the Westin has 700 rooms).
The calculus could all change in a hurry if the economy dips. But for now, expect the hotel boom to continue.