An investment group is closing in on a deal to reignite the long-stalled development of The Cigar Factory on the Charleston peninsula.
Instead of residential condominiums as previously envisioned, the buyer of the historic vacant property is planning a mix of office and retail uses, said Richard Morse, a broker with Palmetto Commercial Properties, which is working with Roadstead Real Estate Advisors to lease the space.
“We have some office tenants in place, and we’re looking for more,” said Morse, who declined to identify the future occupants.
He said the group he’s representing is from Atlanta and has a contract to purchase the building from another Atlantan, developer Boyd Simpson. More details about the buyer are expected to be released this week. The project is scheduled to come up at City Council’s meeting Tuesday over some parking-related issues.
Simpson’s TSO Cigar Factory bought the property for about $20 million in mid-2007 with plans to convert it into a mix of 66 urban-style condos atop retail shops and offices. The money changed hands about six months before the so-called last recession kicked in.
Like many Charleston structures, The Cigar Factory has a storied past. It was built in the 1880s as cotton mill. Some say it was where “We Shall Overcome” first was used in a protest during a strike by American Cigar Co. workers in 1944.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the largest privately owned commercial structures on the peninsula.
Simpson’s plan were derailed in 2009 when his bank failed. By then, he had tapped about half of his $37 million credit line. Suddenly, his new banker was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which soon cut him off, forcing him to shut down the project the day before Thanksgiving in 2009.
Simpson hauled the FDIC into court for not funding the rest of the loan. The case was settled out of court last year. Remarkably, Simpson somehow managed to hold on to the building, which sits on 4 acres at East Bay and Columbus streets.
On the air
A subsidiary of Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative in Walterboro hopes to liven up the airwaves for a darkened radio station after two years.
Premier Enterprises has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for the license for radio station WALI 93.7 FM from Hess Communications LLC. Premier also has signed an agreement to buy the Colleton County station.
“We realize that there was quite a void when WALI-FM went off the air almost 2 years ago,” said Jason Dandridge, president of Premier Enterprises and CEO of the telephone cooperative. “We hope that this purchase agreement and license application will give us an opportunity to fill that void.”
Take a seat
Juggling wheel chairs and shopping carts, narrow aisles and displays is a tough task.
So a Mount Pleasant plastics firm teamed up with a shopping cart manufacturer to solve the problem.
The answer: Caroline’s Cart.
Named after the daughter of a mom on a mission to increase accessibility to grocery and retail establishments, the shopping cart incorporates a seat that can hold up to 250 pounds along with a five-point harness so people with special needs can sit in the shopping cart while being pushed through a retail outlet.
Multiplastics of Mount Pleasant, a division of Curd Enterprises Inc., partnered with German-owned Technibilt of North Carolina to produce the shopping cart, which is in national distribution.
The much-ballyhooed inland port in Greer is set to open a week from today, more than a month behind schedule thanks to the wetter-than-usual summer months, officials said.
The S.C. State Ports Authority’s 100-acre intermodal site will allow shipping containers to be transferred between trucks and Norfolk Southern rail cars running to and from the Port of Charleston, roughly 220 miles away.
It’s expected to take tens of thousands of trucks off of roads and highways each year. The $48.6 million project is a shared expense between SPA and Norfolk Southern.
The inland port is part of SPA’s billion-dollar program to update and add new facilities over the next decade in an effort to grab market share.
Disney shop drops
Amid dramatic falls in stock prices and ongoing struggles to stay afloat, J.C. Penney is attempting to draw in kids and families with the new Disney shop, which launched Friday in time for the holiday shopping season. The shop made its debut in 525 Penney stores across the country, including its Lowcountry department stores in Citadel Mall and Northwoods Mall.
When J.C. Penney brought in Ron Johnson from Apple as chief executive in 2011, the company moved away from its reliance on coupons and discounts and attempted a comeback with a new store-within-the-store model, where brands had designated floor spaces within the department store.
Though hardly a gold mine for Penney’s sales, the new model lives on with additions such as the new Disney shop. The merchandise centers on children’s apparel, collectibles and toys from major Disney films and TV productions.