Home-heavy Mount Pleasant wants a slice of Charleston's expanding aerospace industry to broaden its tax base.
Tthe Charleston County Aviation Authority voted unanimously Thursday to stick with its projected cost of $189.3 million to redevelop the aging terminal building at Charleston International Airport.
About $159 million will go to actual construction costs. The rest will go for professional services.
Earlier this month, board chairman Andy Savage lashed out at program manager Michael Baker Corp. for not doing enough to lower construction costs on the terminal overhaul. On Thursday, he said he was happy that further reductions had been found and was satisfied with the company's performance.
The terminal will be expanded to include six new gates, a third baggage carousel, a new rental car pavilion and other changes. The work is scheduled to be completed in late 2015.
A town councilman and a real estate agent told Charleston County Aviation Authority this week that they'd like 200 acres of industrial zoned property in Carolina Park abutting Mount Pleasant Regional Airport to be considered for small companies connected to the aviation industry.
“We believe Charleston is developing into an aerospace hub, and this is one more asset that's attractive to that industry,” said Mike White, a commercial broker with CBRE Carmody.
White and Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Chris O'Neal presented the plan that calls for the property straddling Faison Road to be subdivided. The first two roughly 20-acre tracts sit on the airport's southeast corner, where potential manufacturers could immediately tie into to a taxiway to the runway if they need to.
White said the tracts in the proposed “Aerospace and Technology Center” are perfect for construction and testing of engines and unmanned aircraft, for instance.
“It could handle a wide range of industries, and some companies wouldn't be a fit at Charleston International,” White said.
The owner of the land and developers want to coordinate the planning with the Aviation Authority to target aerospace suppliers. They want authority staff to conduct a cost-benefit study to determine growth projections, drive economic development and improve overall safety and efficiency at the small airport.
They also believe many Boeing executives already live in the East Cooper area, and suppliers might choose to make Mount Pleasant or Daniel Island their home as well.
“It would give them and their suppliers an opportunity for a work-and-live situation right together,” Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails said.
The property is ready for development, he said.
“It's right by the airport. It's zoned properly. Everything is ready to go,” Swails added.
The mayor doesn't foresee heavy industry locating on the land, but rather light manufacturers and office parks.
“Nothing to disturb the neighborhood,” he said.
The land in question is owned by Chris Marino, whose late father, Ben Marino, was an investor in Carolina Park.
The property lies between the airport and land set aside for residential development in the sprawling Carolina Park subdivision behind Roper St. Francis's Mount Pleasant Hospital on U.S. Highway 17.
Bringing industry to Mount Pleasant would help the town diversify its revenue sources since it is mostly a bedroom community.
“It would help stabilize our tax rate for a long time to come,” Swails said.
About 40 percent of the town's budget comes from property taxes, mostly from houses. The remainder comes from business licenses, hospitality taxes and other sources.
“We need some 6 percent and 10 percent assessment property in Mount Pleasant,” O'Neal said, referring to commercial and industrial sites, which are taxed are a higher rate than residential property. “We see this as an engine for economic development because of the size of the parcels out there.”
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey, sitting in on the airport board for his father, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, said he supports the project.
“Industry just doesn't happen in North Charleston,” Summey said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise
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