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Aloft Hotel celebrates new heights with 'topping out' ceremony

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If anyone noticed it all, the small fir tree atop the steel skeleton of the Aloft Hotel on Lady Street, American flag fluttering beside it, may have seemed a little out of place on a 90-degree afternoon in the middle of May.

Though small, the tree represented big news. Its placement signified that the hotel, set to open in late November, has reached its final height – 68 feet at its highest point. Interior construction is continuing on the five-story, 107-room boutique hotel at the corner of Lady and Lincoln streets in the Vista neighborhood of Columbia.

A small fir tree (right) was hoisted Wednesday to the top of the Aloft Hotel to signify that the structure had reached its highest point – 68 feet. (Photo/Melinda Waldrop)

“You’re halfway there,” said Rick Alexander, Mashburn Construction project manager. “The fun part, for me, is always the structure, but now you’re getting into pretty stuff, all the interiors. We’ve topped out and now it’s time to finish the building.”

“Topping out” ceremonies like the one held by Mashburn on Wednesday represent the continuation of a tradition believed to have begun thousands of years ago in Scandinavia as a way to symbolize bringing life to a building. Norse mythology suggests that man may have originated from a tree.

Aloft is a unit of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., which features an Aloft hotel in North Charleston with another planned for downtown and opened a hotel in downtown Greenville in December. That upscale addition is averaging 4.6 stars in 30 Google reviews, and a room can be rented tonight for $169.

The 70,000-square-foot hotel in the Vista, expected to cost between $18 million to $20 million, marks Aloft’s Columbia debut. It will feature a buffet-style food area, communication stations, meeting spaces, an exercise area and a bar. Construction was approved in March 2015 and stayed on budget despite delays caused by fall flooding, Alexander said.

Aloft will be the seventh hotel constructed in the Vista in the last 15 years, said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corporation, but Alexander isn’t worried about market saturation.

“I think there’s still a demand in the market, particularly in that area,” Alexander said. “That area is so vibrant right now.”

Nationwide, hotel industry revenue topped $189 billion in 2015, up nearly $14 billion from 2014, according to market research firm STR.

Aloft has been described as “the tech-forward innovation hub for millennial-minded travelers” by Business Wire. In an October 2014 release announcing the hotel’s Vista arrival, a Starwood Hotels & Resorts spokesperson called it “the perfect choice for Columbia, South Carolina’s revitalized downtown arts and entertainment district.”

Reach staff writer Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7543

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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