Cigar Factory under contract to be sold

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Oct. 8, 2013

The Cigar Factory in downtown Charleston is under contract to be sold to a new, unnamed developer, according to the current owner.

Previous development plans to convert the building into residential and retail space have fallen through. The five-story brick building, which sits on 4.5 acres the corner of Columbus and East Bay streets, has sat vacant since 2006.

Under new ownership, The Cigar Factory in downtown Charleston will be converted into office and retail space. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
Under new ownership, The Cigar Factory in downtown Charleston will be converted into office and retail space. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

“It hasn’t been sold. ... It’s under contract to be sold,” said owner and developer Boyd Simpson, declining to disclose the potential buyer.

Under new ownership, the building will be rehabbed into office and retail space, with a focus on the region’s growing creative and technical industries, according to a news release. The property will not include a residential component, as previously planned.

The transaction is expected to close in December. Renovations of the 244,000-square-foot building are expected to be complete in fall 2014.

Over 50,000 square feet of space already has tenants committed to date, according to Palmetto Commercial Properties Inc., which is co-leasing the property.

The Cigar Factory was built in 1881 as a cotton mill but sold in the early 1900s to American Tobacco Co., which manufactured the cigar brand Roi-Tan until the 1970s. It was a major employer of neighborhood residents and, later, became office space under various owners.

Developer TSO Cigar Factory LLC, a partnership of Atlanta-based The Simpson Organization Inc., purchased the building in 2007 that Johnson & Wales University vacated in 2006.

Plans called for 77 residential units — either condos or apartments — and roughly 65,000 square feet for retail and office components.

Those plans came to a halt during the recession when Simpson’s financer, Silverton Bank, closed its doors, leaving Simpson scrambling to maintain financing.

In August, Simpson said he either planned to move ahead with development or sell it.

“We saw the city moving this way back in 2007, and that decision to buy here has been largely validated as the area continues to grow,” Simpson said in August. “We’ve had people approach us who want to buy it. It’s not likely we will sell, but we’re in the process of deciding what’s next.”

The new owners plan to use much of the renovations that have already taken place.

Thus far, the building has undergone a near-complete shell renovation, substantial site and utility work, a full overhaul of the structural components of the building, and environmental remediation, and 66 units, ranging in size from 1,100 to 3,500 square feet, are nearly finished, according to a news release.

The units can be combined to accommodate larger space requirements. The ground floor and majority of the second floor have been rehabilitated and are ready for retail and office use.

Roadstead Real Estate Advisors LLC and Palmetto Commercial Properties Inc. are the listing agents for the property and are currently pre-leasing office and retail spaces.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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