News Article | 11/9/2007

Texas-based Hillwood commits to project

Hillwood, the Texas real estate developer that is proposing to build a massive industrial park along Interstate 26 near Summerville, committed to the initial stage of the ambitious project Thursday.

The first building to come out of the ground at the Charleston Trade Center will measure about 400,000 square feet, the State Ports Authority announced at its monthly board meeting in Charleston.

Hillwood, which controls a large swath of land between exits 194 and 199, has submitted plans showing more than a dozen buildings on the site with more than 8 million square feet of industrial space for warehouse operators and manufacturers.

It was unclear Thursday whether Dallas-based Hillwood, which is led by Ross Perot Jr., has any tenants lined up for its first building.

Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., the SPA’s chief executive officer, said he welcomed the investment, which is expected to make the Port of Charleston more competitive by providing more local storage and distribution options near for shippers of oceangoing cargo.

A Hillwood representative said Tuesday that the SPA’s announcement was premature and that details about plans for its 750-acre property will be released soon.

The development is the biggest to date in what is now the undisputed hotbed of industrial real estate in the Charleston region. The burst of activity in what was once the piney hinterlands is being fueled by several factors, including soaring coastal property values, the growth in global trade and a waning supply of big industrial tracts near the Charleston port terminals.

Across I-26 from the Hillwood site, for example, an industrial park is planned for a 320-acre plot that formerly was home to Baucoms’s Nursery. Nearby, New York-based Rockefeller Group is floating a proposal to build 2.6 million square feet of industrial space on 400 acres of timberland.

The big unknown is how a Dubai company’s plans for 1,300 acres near Orangeburg will fit into the mix. Jafza International recently acquired the property at Interstate 95 and S.C. Highway 301, saying it wants to build a huge warehouse and transportation hub.

Whether the Jafza project poses a competitive threat to the Jedburg developments is up for debate.

Some industrial real estate brokers feel that many port users prefer to be as close to the local container terminals as they can, which is what investors like Hillwood are betting on. Others said the Jafza development could be complementary in that it will attract new business to the Port of Charleston.