Updated: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 16:18

River Street power plant sold to local hotelier

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Georgia Power has sold the Plant Riverside site on River Street’s west end to hotel developer Richard Kessler.

The Savannah native’s plans for the 3.79-acre site remain unknown, although a boutique hotel will anchor the development, according to several sources.

Kessler redeveloped the former Fox & Weeks funeral home on Drayton Street into the Mansion on Forsyth Park in 2005 and built the Bohemian on River Street in 2009.

Kessler did not return a message left with his assistant.

Georgia Power spokeswoman Swann Seiler said the buyer — the utility would not acknowledge Kessler as the man behind the company that purchased the property — plans “an exciting redevelopment master plan.” The site is now zoned light industrial but neighboring parcels are zoned for bayfront business, which allows a mix of commercial uses, including retail, restaurant and bar, lodging, office and residential.

Kessler has yet to submit redevelopment plans with the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. The designs would be subject to examination by the Savannah Historic District Board of Review.

The sale of the site closed Monday. The Plant Riverside site includes the former power plant, which opened in 1913, and more than an acre of cleared waterfront property formerly home to the plant’s transformers.

The site has been vacant since 2005 and Georgia Power began prepping it for sale in 2009. The property was listed for sale in September.

Plant Riverside drew heavy interest from “a number of high-profile investors and developers who specialize in historic redevelopment,” according to Seiler.

Plant Riverside redevelopment promises a busy construction year on River Street. A 165-room hotel to be built across River Street from the power plant gained conditional approval last month, and construction has begun on a 55-room boutique hotel in the historic Ryan Building, next door to the Bohemian.

On the east end of River Street, a Joe’s Crab Shack is nearing completion on the former Moran Towing property, while hotel developer North Point Hospitality is working through the review process for a major redevelopment of the former Georgia Power headquarters site. Those plans call for two new hotels, a parking garage and four waterfront retail buildings.

"River Street has traditionally ranked high among area attractions for many visitors to Savannah,” said Joe Marinelli, head of convention and visitors bureau Visit Savannah. “These projects add a new aspect of 'new product development' for our city that will likely have a very positive impact on the future economic prosperity in our community."

ABOUT KESSLER

Born in Savannah and raised in Effingham County, Richard Kessler heads The Kessler Enterprise. The company owns or operates 10 upscale hotels, including the Bohemian and the Mansion on Forsyth Park, as well as the Casa Monica in St. Augustine, Fla., and the Beaver Creek Lodge in Colorado. Grand Bohemian hotels in Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Fla., are in development.

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