The Georgia International and Maritime Trade Center Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to begin working with Atlanta-based hotel developer Songy Highroads to design, build and operate a convention hotel on Hutchinson Island.
Songy, partnering with Omni Hotels, will now move into the pre-development phase of the project — a minimum 300-room hotel on property just west of the trade center.
Authority chairman Mark Smith said he was pleased with the board’s choice.
“We’ll now begin discussions with this fantastic development team to identify and clear all the hurdles that are typical of a project of this scope.”
With current hotel projects in various stages of completion on the other side of the river, the new convention hotel could bring the number of rooms available for conventioneers to more than 2,000. That’s important, Smith said, as the trade center maintains a growing list of major conventions that would like to consider Savannah if it had more rooms in close proximity.
Songy Highroads LLC (SHR), whose development projects range from Dallas to Washington, D.C., focuses primarily on urban infill projects with particular emphasis on the office and hotel sectors. A wholly owned subsidiary, Highroads Holdings LLC, provides third-party management, leasing and brokerage services for both institutional and SHR-owned properties.
Among current projects in their portfolio are the Hyatt Place Houston, the Cypress Executive Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Sheraton Metairie in Louisiana.
Songy Highroads was one of three finalists named last summer to develop, build and operate the new hotel. The other two finalists were ARCADD of Boston and CWT Holdings, the company that owns the Westin on Hutchinson Island.
Smith pointed out that the selection of Songy in no way diminishes the trade center’s ongoing relationship with the Westin.
The new hotel will be built with private funds.
In other business, the trade center released its annual report for 2016.
Among the highlights:
* Events at the trade center produced a total economic impact of more than $54 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
* Nearly 30,000 visitors attended 79 conventions, trade shows and meetings
* Another 80,000 attended 24 public shows, festivals and sporting events and
* Nearly 19,000 took part in 41 banquets.
* The Savannah Belles Ferry, operated in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Chatham Area Transit, posted a ridership of 745,546, the third highest in its 16-year history. The highest month for ridership was 92,000 in July 2015 — also an all-time high ridership month.