By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

A long-standing undeveloped piece of prime real estate — just off Ga. 400 at the convergence of three of the busiest roads in Sandy Springs — is scheduled to begin a transformation this summer into the site of a four-star, four-diamond Grand Bohemian Hotel, being developed by former Atlantan Richard Kessler.

Kessler Collection Hotels, based in Orlando, Fla., hopes to break ground this summer on the 275-room Grand Bohemian luxury hotel, according to Mary C. Kenny, corporate director of marketing and public relations. Kenny said the company is in the process of finalizing financing for the project.

The hotel would be situated on a pie-shaped piece of property just east of Ga. 400 and bordered by Abernathy Road on the north, Mount Vernon on the south and Peachtree-Dunwoody Road to the east. The site is across Abernathy Road from Northpark Town Center, one of the Central Perimeter area’s trophy office complexes and the Sandy Springs MARTA train station.

Kenny said Kessler Collection hopes to break ground this summer on the hotel, which will include 28,000 square feet of meeting space, a grand ballroom, a 5,000-squre-foot high-end restaurant, an art gallery and a 7,000-square-foot spa. She said the intention is to open the hotel for business in 2010.

Kessler plans for the proposed development to replicate its “very successful” Grand Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, which opened in 2001. The company wants to develop the concept into a hotel brand and is planning to break ground soon on a Grand Bohemian Hotel & Residences product in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla.

Additionally, Kessler developed other boutique hotels in Beaver Creek, Colo., St. Augustine, Fla., and in Savannah, where it built the 126-room Mansion on Forsyth Park.

Atlanta-based architectural firm Design Reese Architects and Associates is creating the plans for the Sandy Springs hotel. The firm also designed the Mansion on Forsyth Park property for Kessler.

“Kessler is branding this hotel as an experience of art and music,” Kenny said. “Unique and original artwork will be showcased throughout the entire hotel.”

Reportedly Kessler paid about $2.5 million for the 3.5-acre site in 2006.

“We saw this site as a diamond in the rough,” Kessler Chief Financial Officer Day Dantzler said, “You have 25 million square feet of office nearby, a MARTA station and Perimeter Mall.”

One of the office complexes, the 1.5 million-square-foot Northpark Town Center, which straddles Peachtree Dunwoody Road on the north side of Abernathy Road, recently sold for $315 million in a deal that involved private equity from Bank of Ireland. The complex was sold by the State of Michigan Retirement System, which owned the complex since it was developed in the 1980s.

The Grand Bohemian Hotel is just one of a number of hotel projects that have been announced in the past couple years in the Central Perimeter area, which includes the city of Sandy Springs.