Hillwood Investment Properties plans to begin construction in the next 60 days on the first building in a new distribution and industrial park outside Charleston that may eventually encompass 13 buildings with 9 million square feet of space.
The Charleston Trade Center is located on a 760-acre tract along Interstate 26 near I-95, about 20 miles from Charleston’s marine terminals. The property has foreign trade zone status.
Hillwood is the Perot family company that is probably best known for building a giant 17,000-acre mixed-use development around the Ft. Worth Alliance Airport that is used by a number of companies for distribution.
Hillwood also has major distribution developments in California, Pennsylvania, in Mississippi near Memphis, and Jacksonville, Fla.
Growth in trade from Asia is “certainly a big reason why we are here in Charleston,” said Gary Frederick, a senior vice president for the company. “It’s a trend that is very likely to be continued and sustained.”
Frederick pointed to the growing number of container services from Asia to the U.S. East Coast, including those using post-Panamax ships through the Suez Canal.
He noted that Charleston, with its deep channels, is prepared to handle those ships, as well as the large ships that will be transiting Panama when expansion of the Panama Canal is completed. He also noted that Charleston is adding terminal capacity through redevelopment of the former Navy base in the city.
Many companies are adding distribution centers on the East and Gulf coasts to reduce the risk of having “all their eggs in one basket” on the West Coast because of capacity constraints as well as concern about labor disputes in the wake of the 2002 lockout of longshoremen on the West Coast which disrupted shipping, he said.
Hillwood hopes to complete its first 400,000-square-foot building at the Charleston Trade Center by the third quarter of 2008, Frederick said. The company is marketing the center to companies for warehousing and distribution and manufacturing, including tenants at its other facilities around the country. But he said there is enough flexibility in the zoning for the property that offices and retail stores may also be built at the site.