News Article | 11/15/2007

Charleston area to get warehouse complex

A company owned by the son of Texas billionaire Ross Perot said Wednesday it has bought 750 acres in the Charleston area for a distribution center that is expected to create 3,000 jobs within 10 years, rivaling the plans of a Dubai company in Orangeburg County.

Hillwood Development, the Ross Perot Jr. company based in Dallas, plans 8 million square feet of warehouse space on the Berkeley County site near Jedburg. It’s part of the land German automaker Daimler bypassed in the last 14 years for plants that would have made Mercedes sport utility vehicles and Sprinter vans.

The complex, to be called the Charleston Trade Center, will increase the area’s limited warehouse space, now covering 26 million square feet, said Chris Fraser, president of Barkley Fraser, a Charleston commercial real estate company that will handle leasing for the warehouse.

Increasing Charleston’s warehouse space will allow the state to better handle the flood of goods that are expected to arrive after 2014, when expansions of the Port of Charleston and the Panama Canal are scheduled for completion, Fraser said.

The same expectations led a Dubai World subsidiary, Jafza International, to buy 1,324 acres in Orangeburg County in September for a massive warehouse complex. Construction of that project is expected to begin by 2009. Development on the site is expected to cost at least $600 million and draw distributors and light manufacturers employing about 5,500 people by 2015.

Hillwood plans a quicker start. It will begin construction early next year on a warehouse to cover 400,000 square feet. The building is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2008 and can be expanded by an additional 252,340 square feet, Fraser said.

Hillwood announced the purchase in a news release Wednesday that did not include the price of the land, the full development costs or how long it would take to complete. Hillwood officials were not immediately available for comment. Fraser would not comment on the price.

The site stretches along about a mile of Interstate 26 south of the Piggly Wiggly distribution center built after Mercedes bypassed the site in 1993, instead choosing a site near Vance, Ala., for a plant that makes sport utility vehicles. Daimler, Mercedes’ parent, also considered the site in 2002 for a Sprinter van site, which ultimately landed in another part of Charleston.

Hillwood has developed distribution hubs near Dallas, Memphis and Los Angeles.