Palmetto Railways purchases final 50 acres of former Noisette development

By Andy Owens
Published Oct. 9, 2013

The railroad division of the S.C. Department of Commerce has purchased the last 50 acres of the former Noisette development in North Charleston, including property with existing businesses.

The $10 million purchase includes 7 Storehouse Row, 10 Storehouse Row, 11 Storehouse Row, the former Navy Hospital land, Quarters 762 and 763, the Charleston Marine Containers Inc. parcel and more than 6.3 usable acres known as parcel 14, the Commerce Department said in a news release.

Marketing and communications director Allison Skipper said all existing leases will be honored, and some leases were extended, as Palmetto Railways conducted due diligence on the property.

Skipper said that plans for the intermodal yard would not interfere with existing businesses and said Palmetto Railways intends to consult with stakeholders as work progresses on the former Navy base.

Palmetto Railways, which was formerly called S.C. Public Railways, purchased 240 acres out of foreclosure in 2010 with help from Greystar, a Charleston-based real estate developer.

The railways division plans to build an intermodal rail facility to give access to CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads, which would provide nearby freight service to a port terminal under construction.

Last year, North Charleston and the Commerce Department agreed to settle a legal dispute over rail access to the property, which was part of the former Navy base. The base closed in 1996. Part of the dispute involved concerns from small businesses that had already moved to the Noisette development that they would have freight trains running alongside their businesses.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said he was optimistic that Palmetto Railways and Commerce could attract new investment to North Charleston, but the recession made it difficult for the Noisette development to continue as envisioned at one time.

“The time is now to move forward at the former Navy base,” Summey said in a news release. “Business and research development have progressed, as is noted in the successes of CMMC, the Lowcountry Innovation Center, Clemson University’s Restoration Institute and a wide variety of small businesses, but the global recession and U.S. housing market crash halted the original vision for the base.”

The Noisette Co. sent out emails Tuesday night and updated its website to officially notify the community that it is no longer involved with The Navy Yard at Noisette project.

“The company will no longer be active in its Navy Yard roles as master developer, property manager and community builder,” the email said. “The company will no longer own real estate within the Navy Yard. The face of ownership of Navy Yard property has been transforming for years, as was always intended, sparking additional private investment into the area. The plan for the Navy Yard continues to adapt and grow, and the future remains bright.”

Palmetto Railways said the additional 50 acres in and around the previously purchased property will allow the agency to build the intermodal facility and improve the area in a way that would make it more economically viable overall.

“As a public entity, Palmetto Railways has a vested interest in ascertaining the best and highest use of the former Noisette property, not only for North Charleston but for the state as a whole,” said Jeff McWhorter, president and CEO of Palmetto Railways. “Palmetto Railways will continue its efforts to address safety issues, accessibility and attractiveness at the former Navy base, with the goal of recruiting new business investment and job creation.”

Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the department has an interest in making sure the Navy base is attractive for companies that want to locate near the Port of Charleston.

“An equal-access, dual-rail solution to handle the increased cargo going in and out of the Port of Charleston on post-Panamax containerships has always been the primary focus of Palmetto Railways in North Charleston,” Hitt said in a statement. “However, this purchase of Noisette’s remaining acreage at the former Navy base also gives the Department of Commerce and Palmetto Railways the unique opportunity to make good things happen in North Charleston and to take a comprehensive, public-oriented approach to development.”

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.

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