Veteran demolition man Rodney Loftis says a $1 million project to tear down the former Sears building in the Charleston Town Center mall will be “a pretty big job, the kind that doesn’t come around in Charleston all that often.”
Calls to KM Hotels developer Mayur Patel went unreturned. Loftis said the plan to tear down the Sears building for a hotel is back on after a two-year delay. Asked if the project developer was still Patel, Loftis said “Yes, that’s the man I’m working for.”
Under officers, Patel is listed as a member and organizer of QUARRIER ST LLC on the business and licensing section of the Secretary of State’s website. QUARRIER ST LLC owns the Sears building on Kanawha County tax maps, having purchased it in 2018. The limited liability corporation’s business purpose is listed as “accommodation and food services” and “traveler accommodation [hotels, motels, casino hotels, bed and breakfast inns.]”
Patel’s principal office address is in Richmond, Virginia, according to the Secretary of State. Those are the previously documented headquarters of KM Hotels, the multi-state hotel business Patel administers from that location.
Loftis said the hotel will be a Hilton, marked by a rooftop bar overlooking the city. Asked how he knew of that feature, Loftis said he possessed detailed blueprints showing it. An orange-and-black Loftis Demolition sign hangs on the side of the building. Loftis said he planned to replace it with something larger.
Heavy duty demolition will probably not get under way until September, Loftis said, but expressed certainty that the work is on track.
“I’ve already got a large check from them, so it’s going to happen,” Loftis said.
Loftis said the job will be somewhat involved, for the sheer size of the building; its fairly modern and sturdy structure; and the surgeon-like process of removing an interior wall that horizontally connects the mall’s individual stores. Part of it must be removed in order to demolish the Sears structure within. In concert, a new wall to separate the hotel from the mall must be built.
That maneuver will enable the hotel to be a completely separate structure, on the corner of Quarrier and Clendenin streets. On the southwest quadrant of that corner stands the old Joey’s building, which probably still holds fond memories for long-ago state basketball tournament goers.
The project has been in the works for some time. In May 2018, the Gazette-Mail trumpeted the upcoming project. At the time, Patel told the newspaper the hotel’s opening is still “far out,” but the deal had been in the works for some time. He said the hotel was about two years from opening.
Loftis said Tuesday the hotel would have been constructed two years ago, but an upcoming change in mall ownership changed the face of negotiations.
The mall is now owned by The Hull Group of Augusta, Georgia. That organization purchased the structure in May for $7.5 million. Before that transaction, the mall sold for $35 million to U.S. Bank National Association at an auction on the steps of the Kanawha County Courthouse.
Neither Patel nor John Mulherin of The Hull Group returned calls for comment. Mulherin talked at length about the mall’s prospects in a recent Sunday Gazette-Mail story.
Charleston, meanwhile, is not necessarily short on hotels, but former senator and commercial property developer Brooks McCabe said that is likely to change once and if COVID-19 and its variants are fully tamed. A $100 million city investment into the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center will ramp up the city’s modest convention business, McCabe predicts. The city spent virtually all of that money on meeting spaces and cosmetic enhancements, both designed to lure convention goers.
“I think with the new convention facility there, it would be helpful for the city,” McCabe said of more hotels. “And I think you will see some additional hotel properties be constructed to assist with the Convention Center. The city can handle more visitors than downtown hotels can currently provide.”
McCabe sounded half-surprised to learn the hotel is apparently still on track to be built.
“These transactions are hard to put together in this kind of environment,” McCabe said. “Anyone who can pull it off, I wish them nothing but success.”
Loftis said the $1 million price tag for the project includes asbestos abatement, alterations with the walls and the demolition itself. He said a fairly new building is an opportunity to recycle materials, principally cinder block, concrete and steel. Materials are harder to salvage from an old wooden building full of worn wood and debris.
Patel, according to the 2018 Gazette-Mail story, nearly purchased the vacant Quarrier Street property on which the old Holley Hotel used to sit. That site has loomed in desertion for decades. He backed out.
“The issue over there was the site and cost,” Patel said in 2018. “This one, we have more branding for options and things, because the Holley site wasn’t the best site. This site ... I think it’s probably the best site in town, truthfully, from what we know about Charleston.”