The Atlantic—the final hotel building within hotelier Richard C. Kessler’s Plant Riverside District in Savannah, GA—has opened. Celebrating the Savannah River and the life that surrounds it, the Atlantic is a six-story structure made of concrete, brick, and glass.
It’s the Plant Riverside District’s third mixed-use hotel building within the complex. Each building carries a different theme. The Atlantic, for example, has a maritime theme; Three Muses is light and bright with pastel colors and European-inspired art and décor; The Power Plant is more centered around dinosaurs, fossils, geodes and natural exhibits.
Plant Riverside District is arguably the $375 million crowning achievement of Kessler’s 40-plus year career. It’s also one of the more ambitious projects in recent memory in Savannah and the Southeast U.S., encompassing four acres of the historic Georgia Power’s Plant Riverside, which Kessler, a Savannah native, acquired five years ago.
“We thought about what Savannah needed and what it didn’t have,” said Mark Kessler, president and COO of The Kessler Collection, which includes the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah and the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront. “It was missing an entertainment district. That’s what we wanted to create with Plant Riverside District.”
A mixed-use property (670,000 sq. ft.), Plant Riverside District is the City’s fifth official district, featuring more than a dozen food and beverage options, a riverfront area equipped with fountain shows timed with music and lights, and anchored by the 419-room JW Marriott Savannah.
Plant Riverside District, according to Mark Kessler, has transformed an area once neglected by locals and visitors and made it an economic generator for the city of Savannah.
“It benefits from a quarter-mile extension of the renowned river walk, creation of significant new public spaces, and compatible mixed-use infill, resulting in a hub of vibrant urbanism redefining west River Street, integrally connected to Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District and the Savannah River.
“It is the game-changer and tipping point for the Savannah visitor experience of the future. The historic landmark district will always be one of the top places to visit in America because of its beautiful architecture, stunning live oak trees with Spanish moss and incredible history and heritage. Plant Riverside District has become the igniter for the transformation of Savannah waterfront experience. Visitors love it and the buzz about appears to be larger numbers on River Street than ever seen before.’’
District Live is the new 500-patron capacity live music venue located in the Atlantic Building at Plant Riverside District. It is part of an exclusive booking arrangement with Live Nation. Kessler said more than 20 concerts are booked between September and Dec. 31, 2021. District Live will also be the location of several radio station broadcasts and music competitions.
In addition to concerts, District Live also features That Great Gretsch Sound! Gretsch Museum, presented through a special partnership between the Fred and Dinah Gretsch School of Music at Georgia Southern University and The Kessler Collection. This permanent display of music memorabilia, highlighting 135 years of Gretsch instruments, is featured in District Live’s lobby and performance space.
“Riverside Plant District is an immersive and authentic experience in history, architecture, design, hospitality, food, beverage, and entertainment,” said Kessler. “It’s a destination that cannot be captured in words, pictures, video, or social media. It’s an adventure that requires all your senses. Every time I visit, I see people taking in all Plant Riverside District has to offer and to each person something different strikes them as fascinating. People often approach me, employees and guests, and tell me how it has changed their life in one way or another, how much they enjoy being there, what it means to them. It is truly rewarding and to me means we have achieved our goal of creating an inspiring entertainment district.”
So, what’s next for The Kessler Collection and is it possible for the Kesslers to top themselves?
“For my father and the master visionary, Richard C. Kessler, it certainly is the most creative and intensive project he has done in hospitality that ties in his many passions and interests,” said Mark Kessler. “For me, it is likely the most ambitious project I will work on, but I am still young and look forward to what the future holds. This project pushed the envelope of ‘possible’ for our team. It pushed us beyond the bounds of a ‘typical’ hospitality project or development.
“I don’t know that we will take on such an ambitious project again, but who knows? We often engage in projects that most developers will not or cannot push through to the finish line. Development is risky and you have to have a clear vision, a good team, and execute with persistence. We are opportunists and being a family-owned business allows us to be nimble and quick as we will continue our development (ground-up and adaptive re-use) through the Southeast and expanding our footprint in new regions of the U.S.,” he concluded.