Lowe is the owner of the Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms and developer of the new Cooper Hotel in downtown Charleston, which is being built on the site of the former S.C. Ports Authority headquarters.
The entitlement process will include master planning, design and community collaboration, and is expected to last between 30 and 36 months. Lowe will then work on behalf of the port to sell the non-maritime portion of Union Pier.
Port President and CEO Jim Newsome said part of the process will be to determine exactly how much of Union Pier is non-maritime, but he estimates it’ll be about 30 acres.
“We know fairly well what the northern swath of it across the top is, with the cruise business,” Newsome said. “But it largely depends on the decking and whether you can develop on the deck or not.”
Lowe will receive a monthly stipend of $20,000 during the entitlement phase, plus a reimbursement for direct staff employed on the project, estimated to be an additional $30,000 per month.
The total cost of the entitlement process will be between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.
The stipend will be reduced to $10,000 per month after the entitlement process is completed until the property is sold.
The S.C. Ports Authority retains control of all major decisions throughout the process.
Newsome said the port has been thinking about selling part of Union Pier for about 10 years, periodically taking advice about what to do and when to sell the property. The port started to get serious about moving forward around August.
“The values in the city have risen significantly since we first started thinking about it,” Newsome said. “So we think it’s the right time. All the sort of components, all the pieces of the puzzle are sort of aligning where we can do this.”
“We got to know them in that process. We had a very seamless sort of transaction leading to the closure of properties that we sold to them at that time,” Newsome said. “We certainly watched them, their local team … interact with the city and … We were very impressed with how they did that.”
Newsome said he felt that Lowe was very collaborative and sensitive to the various stakeholders in Charleston, and that the company had a strong background with a national presence and local capabilities.
“I mean, this is the type of work that they do as a big-time real estate developer,” he said.
Newsome said he expects the property to be purchased by multiple buyers for a mixture of office, residential and parking.
“That’s what we do in this process, to really get down to what some of those activities are — what works for the city, what does the city want, what does the city have in mind, how do you do the infrastructure getting into and out of the property,” he said.