Revamp for Metropolitan Hotel, annex announced; skeptics remain

tbarton@beaufortgazette.comJune 15, 2013 

The abandoned annex of the Metropolitan Hotel is shown in this June 7 photo.

JAY KARR — Staff photo Buy Photo

Hilton Head Island officials and Forest Beach property owners are cautiously optimistic about plans to spruce up the Metropolitan Hotel and its vacant annex building.

But, they say, they've heard plans before; they want follow-through on a pledge to restore the hotel.

New California Hotels Corp. announced Thursday it will partner with the Metropolitan's owner, H2 Associates, to renovate the 78-room hotel and convert the annex into a hostel and housing for foreign students on work visas.

The main hotel will be named the Coligny Beach Resort, and the annex will become the eChoice Hotel, a company news release said.

Forest Beach residents and town officials were skeptical Friday.

"I'm hesitant to get too excited until I actually see plans presented to the town for review and approval, or (discuss) the project with its principals," said Town Councilman George Williams, who represents the south-island area. "That will make me feel more comfortable.

"But I will welcome them with open arms, if that's what they're going do. ... It sounds reasonable to me."

Town building official Bob Klein said neither company has applied for work permits.

Tenants and owners at the neighboring Oceanwalk Villas have complained about the appearance of the building behind the hotel off South Forest Beach Drive. They also have safety concerns after fire inspectors issued citations for several code violations at the annex.

"I'm excited by the opportunity that something will get done, but I'll believe it when I see it," said former Oceanwalk board president Bruce Bartow, who owns two Oceanwalk condos.

Metropolitan Hotel general manager Chris Roberts insists that "everything is full-speed ahead now."

Remo Polselli, CEO of New California Hotels Corp., said the Laguna Beach real estate development company forged the partnership after failing to come to terms with H2 Associates on an outright purchase of the property.

"This is something that is going to happen. ... It's not talk," Polselli said Friday.

His company intends to turn the Metropolitan into a boutique hotel. It would feature a kitchen where chefs serving three-month residencies serve cuisine from around the globe. Other hotel features would include in-room entertainment centers with 42-inch, high-definition TVs and a remodeled lobby and pool area.

The vacant annex would combine a hostel and rooms that are part of "a no-frills amenities package."

Guests would check in without an attendant by using an automated system and swipe an approved credit card to open their room, Polselli said.

Televisions would be pre-loaded with movies, YouTube, video cameras and Skype, and there would be high-speed Internet access throughout the property, Polselli said.

"There is a new generation of traveler coming to Hilton Head," he said. "... We're positioning this hotel for the future."

Polselli said construction is expected to begin in September or October and be completed by next spring. He said plans and costs are still being determined, and he hoped to release renderings for both hotels within 30 days. Financing for the project is being provided by Pacific Coast Mortgage Group, according to the news release.

"We think this is a great opportunity to bring something new to a great area and a great town," he said.

Charlie Clark, spokeswoman for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the investment in the property but was not sure the hostel would be successful here.

"It will be interesting to see if it's something that will appeal to Hilton Head's visitors," Clark said. "Hilton Head is an upscale, affluent destination."

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