Heavy traffic whirs down four-lane U.S. Highway 78 past several hundred acres of mostly wooded land on what’s known as Ingleside Plantation in North Charleston.
“It’s going to get busier,” said developer Fritz Meyer of the vehicles headed toward Interstate 26 and toward Ladson in the opposite direction.
Meyer, vice president of development for Weber USA, the real estate arm of German auto parts magnate Albert Weber who owns the land, made the comment while touring the nearly 1,800-acre mostly undeveloped tract straddling Blue House Swamp and stretching from I-26 past Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
New roads are taking shape within the old plantation Weber bought in 1997 and added onto with adjacent land purchases in 1999 and 2006. Those roads are going to change some traffic patterns in the Lowcountry.
Paid for through $36 million in Charleston County’s half-cent sales tax receipts set aside for transportation and other uses, Northside Drive Extension and Future Drive are being cut through the property. They will eventually serve as connections to a proposed interchange on I-26 that will take traffic straight to the industries lining Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
They will also bring development to Ingleside Plantation, growth stunted five years ago when financial markets collapsed in the Great Recession and developers unveiled ambitious plans for the property.
In November 2008, as banks sought bailouts and businesses buckled, developers laid out huge plans to transform the old plantation into a $750 million commercial and office project.
They shrugged off the roiling economy at the time, saying the economic pendulum would swing back into positive territory before too long.
Developers expected the first $250 million phase of Ingleside Plantation at the heavily traveled juncture of Interstate 26 and U.S. Highway 78 to include new buildings, most likely restaurants and hotels. About 1.12 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and residential space was going to rise after about two years, soon after roads were cut.
Five years later, the slow slog back from the deep recession proved them wrong, though some development did occur on the property’s fringes.
Near the interstate, an apartment complex rose and another is on the way beside it on about 40 acres altogether. On the other side of the property along Palmetto Commerce Parkway, about three dozen acres were sold for three separate industries: Tighitco, Streit Armoring and Immedion.
The rest of the projected development, slated over several years in phases, failed to materialize. “That was an ill-fated venture,” said Eric Meyer, Fritz’s father and president of Weber USA.
The property, which Weber once called “a hidden jewel,” is owned by an affiliate of Weber Automotive, which has a manufacturing plant in Summerville.
With the economy slowly regaining its footing and some significant road development now taking shape on the property, Ingleside’s future is looking a little rosier.
Trees are being cleared for a 2.5-mile extension of Northside Drive to U.S. Highway 78. A one-mile crossroad called Future Drive will connect the Northside extension to Palmetto Commerce Parkway and eventually Patriot Boulevard.
A $10 million sewer line, financed by the city of North Charleston, is also being installed from a new pump station near I-26 to Palmetto Commerce Parkway and eventually to Wescott Plantation off Dorchester Road.
Once the roads are completed in less than two years and development sprouts up, developers can use the tax proceeds from new businesses to help pay for side roads built and paid for by the developer. That’s part of the tax increment finance district local government set up for the property.
At one point, Weber planned to put his North American headquarters on the tract. That didn’t happen, but Eric Meyer said the German industrialist still wants to build a 180,000-square-foot automotive parts manufacturing building on Palmetto Commerce Parkway at some point.
In a more concrete development, the Bank of South Carolina hopes to move into part of a planned two-story, 40,000-square-foot building at the north end of Northside Drive Extension, where it intersects U.S. 78, Eric Meyer said. Talks are underway with medical offices for a good chunk of the rest of the new structure.
The planned residential buildings do not include single-family homes. Condominiums, townhouses and apartments are slated for areas set aside for housing.
Weber’s son, Daniel Weber, chief financial officer and vice president of sales for Weber Automotive, expects the property to be developed over 15-20 years, the same amount of time announced five years ago.
“We want to have a mix of industry, commercial and very high quality projects,” Daniel Weber said. “We have a lot of deals already proposed to us. We are not in any rush. It’s very important that it fits in the community and the overall picture.”
On a drive through the property last week, Fritz Meyer pointed out the property fronts 2.25 miles of interstate, an attractive feature to prospective tenants. Other plusses include power provided by different utilities and a Norfolk Southern rail line bisecting the tract.
Mounds of chopped up trees sit in the middle of clear-cut swaths about 150 feet wide. That’s where the two new major arterial roads will go. A 30-foot-high overpass over the rail line is slowly taking shape with sloped stacks of earth.
The planned new interstate interchange that will eventually connect to Future Drive is not part of the current Roadwise-financed project.
“The interchange is not being built for our development, but we will benefit from it,” Fritz Meyer said. “It’s planned as an access to the interstate for industries along Palmetto Commerce Parkway.”
While no major commercial developments have been announced, Fritz Meyer said, “There has been a lot of discussion with big-box retailers.”
About 140 acres have been sold. They include land for the apartments near the interstate and industries along Palmetto Commerce Parkway and 60 acres bought by Daimler for future expansion beside its van assembly plant. Another 60 acres are being used for highway right of way.
“We hope we can develop it in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing,” Fritz Meyer said.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.