The Henderson & Salamander: ‘a perfect fit’

DESTIN, FL—Some 10 years in the making, The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, opened here in mid-November. 

Located adjacent to a 208-acre environmentally protected state park, the resort is owned by Memphis-based Dunavant Enterprises, Inc., and is managed by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, led by Sheila C. Johnson.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort (from left-right) are: Shannon Howell, Devcon Services Group; Scott Fischer, Mayor of Destin; Sheila Johnson, founder/CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts; Bill Dunavant Jr., chairman and Bill Dunavant III, president/CEO of Dunavant Enterprises, Inc.; Jane Merrill, of the Henderson family; Douglas Hustad, GM/The Henderson; and Bill Hagerman, VP/acquisitions at Dunavant Enterprises, In

“After a decade of development and meticulous planning, our family is thrilled and humbled that opening day is finally here,” said Bill Dunavant III, president/CEO of Dunavant Enterprises, Inc.

The property has 170 guestrooms and suites with balconies or terraces, a Salamander Spa, Gulf-to-table cuisine, a bar with panoramic Gulf views, a rooftop terrace, two outdoor swimming pools, 30,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor/outdoor event space, a fitness room, Kid’s Club and private beach access.

The Henderson is the anchor resort hotel of under-development Henderson Beach Resort, future phases of which will include 52 villa-style condominiums and resort accommodations next year, followed by an additional 56 villas.

In bringing its luxury-level management strength to The Henderson, Johnson said Salamander was attracted to the vision behind the project. “It offers a level and type of luxury experience previously unavailable in the market and region. The desire of the owner to create the best product, and also work with an independent brand like ours, meant that we were a perfect fit for each other,” he said.

Prem Devadas Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Prem Devadas
Salamander Hotels & Resorts

Salamander’s President, Prem Devadas, noted the resort already is the destination of  “important groups that are coming in the first 30 days… The holiday season is a very busy time here. People spend their vacations here and so many people come home [here]for the holidays. We wanted to make sure we were here so people could really enjoy the resort and discover it.

He noted group business is expected to drive 40% of the resort’s overall occupancy, with the hotel a prime wedding venue.

Devadas recalled how the Dunavant Family acquired The Henderson site years ago. “Their vision of creating this grand resort has evolved over time. I was fortunate to be introduced to them seven years ago as they were getting the approvals. They wanted to do something that would be a legacy; that would be around for 100 years and be representative uniquely to the Destin area, and therefore, unbranded. So that was the great fit with Salamander,” he said. “The commitment by the family has been tremendous.”

Dunavant Enterprises also owns the nearby beachfront, 36-room Henderson Park Inn.

Salamander worked with the owners through the entire design-development process, “so it has many of the aspects of a Salamander resort and it is a very worthy addition to our collection,” said Devadas.

The Salamander portfolio includes Innisbrook Resort near Tampa, Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, all Florida; and the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA. It’s also developing and will manage the 217-room NOPSI Hotel due to open next year in New Orleans.

At press time, Salamander also had inked an agreement to team with Bennett Hospitality to manage the Bennett Hotel, opening next year in Charleston, SC.

The Henderson’s design architect is Atlanta, GA-based Cooper Carry, and interior design was provided by Karen Kent of Kent Interior Design in Atlanta. DPR Hardin served as general contractor and Shannon Howell of Destin-based Devcon Services Group provided project management.

The hotel’s lobby has been supplanted by a “Living Room” that features high ceilings and a wall of windows that faces the beach. The hotel’s interior incorporates walnut floors, reclaimed beams and trusses, and commissioned artwork by local and regional artists.

“I can’t stress enough how unique it is in today’s world of corporate hotels to have a family-owned property like this; it’s independent luxury. It’s a great, great story,” said Devadas. HB

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