SoHo Lofts is a renovation project that not only transformed a cornerstone building into three commercial spaces, but also introduced small scale lodging to historic downtown Milledgeville. This concept, growing in popularity, is a viable option for developers looking to open a bed & breakfast while offering visitors a great alternative to a traditional hotel stay. In downtown Milledgeville, guests can experience this distinct difference at SoHo Lofts.
Owners of the Antebellum Inn, Marty and Kim Martin, purchased and renovated the building in 2014. The property, originally built in 1890, was in dire need of an extensive rehabilitation. The Martins preserved much of the buildings original features from the hardwood floors to the beautifully detailed windows. After originally planning to lease the lofts as residential housing, the Martin’s began exploring the idea of providing an in-town option for visitors, different from their bed & breakfast concept.
When asked why they opted for boutique lodging, Marty Martin explained, “The idea was to create something conducive to the needs of the local market while remaining flexible, should the environment change. Being able to handle short as well as extended stay guests was important to us, so we made sure to be well prepared to offer both.”
As a vibrant college town, Milledgeville often has parents visiting their college age children for the weekend. Downtown is also host to many events annually that brings visitors to the area. The Martins have seen an increase in extended-stay guests as well. Visiting professors and new to the area business professionals have stayed between one and four months at a time. The lofts are only two blocks from Georgia Military College and Georgia College and State University. In a community where most of the large hotels sit on the outskirts of town, not unlike many in Georgia, this boutique lodging option fills a great need for a place to stay that is convenient to the action downtown.
Filling this niche market, the SoHo Lofts are touted as luxury, industrial, loft-style suites. The suites offer all the amenities of home and are equipped with cable television; desk with complimentary wireless internet; luxurious linens and down comforters; sound machines; fully equipped kitchens and private baths. The Lofts are rented through the website or by calling their sister property, the Antebellum Inn. Guests of the Lofts check in at the Inn but a growing number of small scale lodging locations across the country are using technology for efficiency.
Utilizing technology to make the reservation and check-in/out are some of the cost-effective ways to do business and provide convenience to guests. For example, key code access to the building and rooms or online reservation systems can help owners eliminate the need for additional man power by streamlining time spent on operations.
Each development project presents unique challenges and lessons learned. Developing in a historic district requires careful inspection of local ordinances to determine whether the project is feasible. One of the concerns in Milledgeville was parking. Options will vary in different communities, but the Martins were able to rent spaces (one per bedroom, per the local ordinance) from the Downtown Development Authority to meet this requirement.
The small scale lodging concept has been well received in Milledgeville, giving the colleges, development authorities and visitors center an opportunity to provide a unique place to stay different from other communities. It fills a gap in lodging downtown when the option for a large hotel is less feasible.
Like downtown Milledgeville, many cities’ downtown buildings have available space upstairs. Using that “upstairs space” for small-scale lodging when options for downtown lodging is limited could make great economic sense.
For more about SoHo Lofts visit www.soholoftsga.com