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Columbia Co. money approved for hotel study along Savannah River

Luxury hotel

The next step is to hire a firm to study the plan and see if a luxury hotel along the Savannah River would sink or swim. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 7, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- Columbia County commissioners have approved $7,500 for a study into whether a small luxury hotel might make money.

So far, the county has seen interest to put a "boutique" lodging, restaurant and retail facility along the Savannah River near the rapids. Now it's time to see if it would work.

Wade Putnam moved near the Savannah River a few years ago. His family would welcome some development in his neck of the woods.

"I think it's an excellent idea, I mean there's an untouched resource back there that nobody ever visits and it could bring a lot to the community, to the economy that we need," Wade said.

And the river is prime real estate.

"It's tough to say with the situation we're in right now with the economy, but I think it's an excellent idea for tourists and visitors and what just Masters week brings to Augusta, Ga. I think it's a great idea," Wade said.

Development Authority Executive Director Troy Post says the county has seen interest for a boutique hotel and retail site.

"In addition to the lodging component, it might also have a couple of specialty retail stores associated with it. It could even have a restaurant," Post said.

Now the next step is to research -- hire a firm to study the plan and see if the hotel would sink or swim.

"Can this concept really work? If so, what would be the components behind this? What would the county, the state be required to do? And of course, where would you put it?" Post said.

With river shoreline limited, already developed or protected, Clarks Hill Lake is also an option.

"We think if we can find a place that would serve it well close to those attractions -- the river, the lake -- that it could work well for this area," Post said.

The study will cost taxpayers $7,500. The county hopes to pay for the rest with state grants and have the study done sometime next year. Estimates are ranging anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 for the study, which Post says is reasonable for a consultant.

"It could be determined that the concept just could not work here, and we need to know that at the outset before additional monies are put in either from the private or public sector," Post said.

Wade is hopeful the study will show dollar signs.

"It takes money to make money and you certainly want to invest that before you pull the trigger," Wade said.

The county also hopes to incorporate Stallings Island into the attraction. The 16-acre island was a Native American settlement and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. It's off limits to visitors, but the hotel could offer new perspective.

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