Ports authority could sell site to town of Port Royal

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published March 19, 2014

The S.C. State Ports Authority is in discussions with the town of Port Royal to potentially sell its Port Royal site, ports authority board Chairman Bill Stern said during the monthly board meeting today.

The ports authority has been trying to sell its closed operations in Beaufort County for nearly a decade. The site, formerly used for port activity, has been sitting idle since the mid-2000s.

The port has come close to selling the property several times and even signed a resolution to sell the property for $17 million in 2011 from an unnamed buyer. But the deals have always fallen apart at some point before closing.

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The roughly 300-acre site is listed for sale for $22.5 million, Stern said. The site includes a marina, the water and an estimated 60 developable acres.

“We’ve been ready to sell it,” Stern said. “It’s natural for the town to control the asset. We’re making an effort on our end to work with the town.”

Port Royal Mayor Samuel Murray, who attended the board meeting with several town council members, said the town is considering buying the property, dividing it into three sections and building mixed-use developments on the property.

One section would be used for single-family housing, including duplexes, houses and condos; another section would be used to build commercial space, hotels and a convention center; and the remaining section would be used as a marina, Murray said.

A 225-boat slip is already approved, which shrimping boats in the area could use. It could also attract seafood restaurants to the area, Murray said.

If developed, the site could bring new residents and businesses to town and promote tourism in the area. Murray said the town is deciding whether to buy the site and is working through how to pay for it.

The port originally used the site for public seaport facilities, according to its website. When it was no longer in use, then-Gov. Mark Sanford told the ports authority to “dispose itself of the former site,” Stern said.

Since then, the ports authority has been working with NAI Avant to market the site. Several offers have been made, and the site has been under contract at least four times, but nothing has come to fruition. The real estate market crash made selling difficult, and Stern said it’s been challenging to find a developer willing to take on the site.

Also during the meeting, the ports authority reported that the Port of Charleston handled roughly 1.1 million 20-foot equivalent units, a common industry measurement, in fiscal 2014. This is up 4.7% from fiscal 2013.

The ports authority’s operating revenues were $101.74 million for fiscal 2014 as of Feb. 28, up 12.6% from fiscal 2013. Total expenses were $95.12 million for fiscal 2014, up 15.9% from the year prior. Operating earnings were down 20% at $6.62 million.

Breakbulk tons were up about 5.1% at 448,000 for fiscal 2014, the board reported. Roughly 127,000 passengers came to port, up 8.4%, and 1,202 ships docked during the period ended Feb. 28, down less than 1% from last year.

Pier container volumes, which track the number of boxes moved, were up 3.9% at roughly 606,000 containers for fiscal 2014 compared with fiscal 2013.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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