City considers tech district for peninsula

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published July 16, 2014

An urban technology district known as the Charleston Innovation District is being considered for a 10-acre site along Morrison Drive in downtown Charleston.

The city of Charleston is considering using land near 995 and 999 Morrison Drive for a tech hub that would enable tech companies to cluster and grow, similar to the Horizon District’s mixed-use development plan that aims to grow the health care sector.

Charleston County owns 995 Morrison Drive and operates administrative buildings there. The county is considering options for potentially relocating those services, though nothing has been finalized, said Shawn Smetana, the county’s media relations coordinator.

The Charleston Innovation District would be a high-density, high-tech cluster, if approved. (Rendering/Provided)
The Charleston Innovation District would be a high-density, high-tech cluster, if approved. (Rendering/Provided)
“The tech industry, while relatively new, has seen tremendous growth in the past 10 years and is having a major economic impact on the city’s economic vitality and diversity while positioning Charleston as a national tech hub,” according to a statement from the Charleston Digital Corridor.

The corridor plans to build its third flagship space and a parking lot at 999 Morrison Drive, according to Ernest Andrade, the corridor’s executive director.

The corridor currently operates coworking and incubator space for tech companies at its Flagships 1 and 2 along Calhoun and Alexander streets, respectively.

In addition to the Flagship3 anchor tenant, startups and established tech companies would occupy office space in or near mixed-use developments that ideally would include housing, retail spots, cafes and restaurants, Andrade said.

Half Mile North, a nearby mixed-use development along East Bay Street, has a similar concept. Edmund’s Oast restaurant and tech companies SIB Development and Consulting and Blue Acorn currently occupy space there.

Flagship3 plans

Flagship3 got one step closer to construction Tuesday night when Charleston City Council unanimously voted to increase the height restriction for the site from 55 feet to 85 feet to accommodate the 76-foot Flagship3. Flagship3’s designs go before the city’s Board of Architectural Review on July 23.

Flagship3 will be around 45,000 square feet, more than twice the combined size of Flagships 1 and 2.

The newest flagship space would continue offering space for startups, as well as some longer-term space for more established, high-growth companies with up to 50 employees, Andrade said.

“There are some really great things happening economically in our city from tech companies operating close together,” Andrade said. “We look to grow that and accelerate some of the results we’ve seen from Flagships 1 and 2.”

If Flagship3 secures regulatory approvals from the city, Andrade hopes to break ground on the facility this fall. The city previously acquired nearly 2 acres at 999 Morrison Drive for Flagship3. The public-private partnership will be privately funded.

“This section of Morrison Drive is so new that the roadways didn’t exist prior to the 1950s,” Andrade said. “It went from being marsh to industrial to being used for car dealerships. ... Now, this can be a productive use of the property to grow our tech sector.”

Read more details in the July 28 issue of the Charleston Regional Business Journal. Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

(Editor’s Note: Charleston County owns 995 Morrison Drive).

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