It’s no coincidence that Buddy Lindsay pulled up for the groundbreaking ceremony for his new hotel on the oceanfront in Myrtle Beach last week in a Cadillac.
If it weren’t for a couple of Cadillacs back in the 1950s, he wouldn’t have been putting shovels in the ground of the vacant lot for a new 14-story Homewood Suites Oceanfront Resort & Conference Center last week.
Lindsay, president of Sonship Hospitality, is partnering on the project with the Fowler family, whose roots run deep in Myrtle Beach as the operators of the Robbie Shyan motel in the late 1950s and 1960s and whose patriarch was Mack Fowler, who ran a local Cadillac dealership.
Back in the ‘50s, Fowler traded two Cadillacs for the oceanfront lots where the Homewood will be built, Lindsay said, adding that each car back then was worth about $3,750 a piece. Today, the land is appraised at about $3 million, Lindsay said, which prompted Fowler’s widow to ask him, “Have we been paying $46,000 a year [in taxes] ....to grow sea oats?’ ”
Fowler, who died in 1998, left the in-demand land vacant for years, resisting frequent offers from developers, said Tom Moore, general manager of the Hampton Inn & Suites Oceanfront that is next door to the site.
“And [Fowler] says ‘Nope, that’s my little piece of oceanfront,’” Moore said.
But since then times have changed, and the Fowler family was finally ready to move forward with developing the land, said Robbie Hockenberry, Fowler’s daughter who helped ceremoniously shovel dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday. Hockenberry’s mother, 97-year-old Lillian Fowler, also attended the ceremony; both were serenaded by the crowd with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to mark the other reason Thursday was an important day for them.
“This is a great opportunity for Myrtle Beach,” Hockenberry said. “Myrtle Beach has changed a lot since my dad was here. He would be happy that other people could enjoy this too.”
If it weren’t for the partnership with the Fowler family, there would be no new $25 million Homewood Suites, which aims to open in spring 2016.
The high cost of the last few spots of pricey oceanfront land makes new towers impossible for most developers, Lindsay said. The partnership with the Fowlers takes care of that hurdle for Lindsay.
“Nobody can afford to build. It’s the only way we could do this,” Lindsay said after the groundbreaking ceremony before getting in his Cadillac and driving off the oceanfront lot.