Hundreds of vacant acres near Interstate 85 could one day blossom into a manufacturing and distribution hub.
Adjacent tracts could soon open for retail, hospitality and mixed-use development too.
Available land sits near planned developments
Click here to view a compilation of sites available for lease or purchase near the future site of the S.C. Inland Port, BMW Manufacturing Co., the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and Interstate 85 in Greer.
The ports staff expects construction to begin sometime this month for a projected opening of Sept. 1. The inland port’s design is almost complete.
Additionally, the airport is prepping massive tracts of its land to develop adjacent to the inland port. In all, the airport has around 1,500 acres of land that could be developed into industrial, distribution, retail, office, hospitality and other properties.
“There’s high potential for e-commerce to continue to grow here and for a company to establish a distribution location here that could be key for tremendous growth,” GSP President and CEO Dave Edwards said.
The area’s growth will start with the development of an inland port. The facility will be able to reach 6.5 million consumers in a 100-mile range, reaching Asheville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Columbia, Knoxville, Tenn., and Spartanburg, and 94 million consumers in a 500-mile range, reaching Baltimore, St. Louis and Tampa, Fla., among others, according to the S.C. State Ports Authority.
The S.C. State Ports Authority board recently authorized the port’s CEO and CFO to borrow no more than $30 million to develop, build, operate and maintain the inland port. The loan’s rate can’t exceed 5% and should be paid over at most 20 years.
Upstate-based customers and manufacturers are likely to use the facility, which could attract more businesses to the Upstate as well. S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome said BMW is onboard with the inland port, calling the automotive manufacturer “an anchor client.” BMW did not comment on specifics.
“The S.C. Ports Authority Inland Port in Greer is great news for South Carolina, particularly for the manufacturing and transportation industries,” said Sky Foster, BMW Manufacturing’s corporate communications manager, in an emailed statement. “BMW continues to investigate options around the port’s Upstate expansion and the opportunities that it may present for BMW, as well as others.”
BMW is in the midst of its own expansion, investing $900 million and hiring 1,000 over the next couple years to boost vehicle output and launch production of a new model, the X4. That expansion could trickle through the automaker’s Upstate supplier network.
The S.C. Inland Port, which would link the Charleston Harbor to Greer by Norfolk Southern rail, will be built on land off Highway 290 and J. Verne Smith Parkway in Greer. It would connect to land the airport hopes to develop.
The ports authority purchased around 100 acres in Greer in 1982 to build an inland port, but the land wasn’t developed at the time. It still needs roughly 40 additional acres to make the inland port work, which GSP owns, so the entities might swap some acreage, subject to approval, Newsome said.
It will be near Highway 101, a few miles from the GSP terminal and BMW, said Jack Ellenberg, the ports authority’s vice president of economic development. Trains would depart Charleston around 8 p.m., arriving at the Greer facility around 5 a.m., hauling goods from the Upstate to the rest of the world.
Airport leaders have been working with port leaders.
“This creates a unique environment for the Upstate,” Edwards said. “Not many places around the country have the ability to have an inland port, a railroad going to the sea, road infrastructure and access to the airport within a few miles of each other.”
Around the airport
The airport, meanwhile, is set to open hundreds of acres of land for private development on the north side of I-85, between Highway 14, J. Verne Smith Parkway, Highway 290 and Brockman McClimon Road, and adjacent to the Norfolk Southern rail. Highway 101 runs through the property as well.
In November, the airport commission adopted a land-use plan to pave the way for the addition of light and heavy manufacturing, commercial, hospitality and other development. Financing has not been put in place to prep the sites for construction, but the plan serves as a guide for private development and expansion. There is no timetable.
“The inland port impacts the potential for development happening much earlier than expected,” Edwards said. “It’s helping us to initiate development faster.”
GSP wants to lease undeveloped land to create a revenue stream that would help maintain competitive operating costs for airlines providing service at the airport, Edwards said. The airport hired CDM Smith last year to develop the land-use plan.
Representatives from CDM Smith laid out the groundwork for nine land tracts, many of which would be subdivided for multiple users. Appropriate uses, CDM Smith said, include light and heavy manufacturing, mixed-use, retail, hospitality, office, R&D and aviation, such as aircraft maintenance or assembly.
Of the nine tracts, the one likely to be developed first sits adjacent to the inland port. The best use of those 290 developable acres, called Tract B, is light manufacturing or distribution, said John Mafera of CDM Smith. Prepping the site with water, sanitary sewer, utilities and other infrastructure would cost around $6 million, he said. The airport commission did not discuss financing options when adopting the land-use plan.
“Whatever we put in the ground first really sets the stage so it is really important to get it right,” Mafera said.
Just south of Tract B is a much larger plot already outfitted with some utility infrastructure. The site, called Tract A in the airport’s plan, sits adjacent to Norfolk Southern rail, roadway access and air freight operations.
“When you talk to site selection consultants, they salivate over this piece of property,” said Bryan Cully of CDM Smith.
More than manufacturing
Of the airport’s land, nearly 1,000 acres are best suited for industrial use, according to CDM Smith’s analysis. There are also tracts tabbed for private aviation use, such as aircraft assembly or maintenance, and another site set aside to expand airfreight operations.
Two tracts totaling 100 acres on each side of Highway 14 are well suited for retail, according to the land-use plan. Sites exceeding 200 acres at I-85 and Brockman McClimon would work well for office, retail and a hotel, CDM Smith reported.
There also is a large tract of land — more than 600 acres — that could be preserved and opened for public, recreational use. In the long term, this space could become another runway.
Infrastructure, such as new roads and utility service, would need to be expanded to accommodate development.
One tract, for example, would need around $22 million in upgrades, most of which would fund a new aircraft parking apron for freight cargo and could be eligible for grant funding from the Federal Aviation Authority.
On the lower end, a tract may require nearly $6 million in road and other infrastructure upgrades, CDM Smith said. For the most part, however, roads, utilities, rail and other infrastructure is in place to make additional investment cost-effective and private development attractive, Mafera said.
But to attract investors, the airport will need to invest itself first.
“It’s going to take some time,” Airport Commission Chairwoman Minor Shaw said. “It’s a tremendous asset sitting here.”