The Brice hotel in Savannah, Ga., may appear all stylish and modern after a major overhaul by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, but it’s a true slice of history. The 145-room boutique property is located in a historic site, originally built in the 1860s, that once housed a livery stable, a cotton warehouse, a wholesale grocer, a tin shop, and a machine shop. Most famously, it was home to the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in Savannah before its conversion to a hotel in 1982.
In February 2013, Kimpton Group Holding closed a $203 million hotel investment fund with the goal of acquiring more than $500 million worth of hotels over the next three years. The new fund allowed the company to acquire The Mulberry Inn in the heart of Savannah’s historic district and convert it to a Kimpton hotel.
“The attempt was to take a timeless building and revamp it or enhance it into what our design team and Kimpton does on a normal basis, which is whimsical,” says Mitch Linder, The Brice’s general manager. “[To give it] a contemporary feel but pay homage to the tradition and history of the building.”
Kimpton has developed a reputation as a leader in adaptive reuse development projects, such as the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia that opened in October 2012 in the city’s historic Lafayette building, which was previously used as office space.
While Kimpton aimed to put a playful, modern twist on the more traditional style of lodging found throughout Savannah with its latest adaptive reuse project, the company also wanted to bring back memories of a bygone era.
“We took elements of the history and elements of the neighborhood here in Savannah and brought them into the building,” says Kate Brown, director of sales and marketing for Kimpton. “It’s not an in-your-face way of being traditional, but modern Southern is kind of what we’re looking at.”
Tributes to the past include a two-story factory window above the entrance and a concierge desk constructed from an old Coca-Cola sign. (For the record, the sign isn’t a holdover from the days when the building was a plant.) The slate gray color scheme is a nod to a rare, costly brick known as Savannah Gray. “We wanted to have a nice soothing color palette, with pops throughout the hotel,” Brown says.
The guestroom features a mirrored armoire with a surprise pop of fuchsia, an edgy version of a classic four-poster bed, and floor-to-ceiling silver velour drapes.
Savannah is a leisure destination, primarily for people taking four- or five-hour drives from cities like Atlanta, Charleston, Jacksonville, and Orlando, Brown says. The Brice will offer guests a retreat away from the city but with a gateway to the rich history, art, music, dining, shopping, and entertainment options. “We designed it as a leisure hotel, a romantic getaway hotel,” Brown explains. “Savannah’s very much about couples, girls’ getaways, and guy golf getaways.”
In addition to nightly wine receptions and pet-friendly events, the hotel will offer quirky activities such as a class on how to tie a bowtie hosted by Linder.
The hotel includes 5,700 square feet of indoor meeting and event space and 2,300 square feet of outdoor space. In the private open-air courtyard garden, guests can enjoy food and drinks from Kimpton’s adjacent farm-to-table restaurant as well as music, culture, and community.
Although the building has a rich history, Linder and Brown say no artifacts of the past were uncovered during the renovation. But the project did become a history lesson of sorts about the site.
“We learned more about the building and this land than any of us had ever known,” Brown says.