Bass Pro Shops has confirmed plans to build one of its huge outdoor recreation stores in North Charleston, opening in 2015 as the anchor tenant for the Ingleside development.
"We have been working on attracting Bass Pro Shop for quite some time, and we are very excited about today's official announcement," North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said Friday. "Once opened, Bass Pro will attract many visitors and outdoor recreational enthusiasts, providing a definite boost to the already thriving Highway 78 corridor."
Bass Pro Shops is expected to receive a generous and controversial South Carolina tax break that could allow them to essentially keep half the sale tax revenue they generate, for 15 years. The business would have to meet certain conditions, including a $25 million investment, and drawing at least 35 percent of the store's visitors from at least 50 miles away.
The 130,000- to 150,000-square-foot store, which will feature an Uncle Buck's Fishbowl and Grill, will be be built in the more than 1,500-acre Ingleside Plantation development that's planned between Interstate 26 and Palmetto Commerce Parkway, near U.S. Highway 78. Construction is set to begin next year.
"By adding a Bass Pro Shops to this premier development in North Charleston, we hope to enhance this area's rich tradition and long history of being a highly sought-after outdoor and tourist destination," said Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops.
A new I-26 interchange is planned for the site, and Charleston County and North Charleston are in the process of building new roads and widening or extending others leading to the location, including Northside and Future drives. Bass Pro Shops said the store will be at the intersection of I-26 and Northside Drive - an intersection that does not yet exist.
The Post and Courier reported Thursday night that North Charleston has agreed to facilitate the sales tax incentive, by applying for "extraordinary retail establishment" status and serving as a pass-through for the rebated sales tax money. The city did not name the company previously, but the state tax break is designed for either Bass Pro Shops or its rival, Cabela's - a retailer that North Charleston had previously courted for the same site.
The idea behind the tax incentive is that such stores, with exhibits, large aquariums and museum elements, are tourist attractions that draw visitors and fill hotel rooms. The tax break is only available to four businesses, and the planned North Charleston Bass Pro Shops location could be the first to get it.
The state won't divulge how many businesses have applied, or the status of their applications. Cabela's is building a store in Greenville and plans another in Fort Mill, but it's not known if they will get the same "extraordinary retail establishment" tax break.
Bass Pro Shops has been conditionally certified for the special treatment, Summey said Thursday. The company also has a location in Myrtle Beach, which did not receive tax incentives, and another in Savannah, Ga.
The sales tax break has been available since 2006, when North Charleston was pursuing Cabela's. Then-Gov. Mark Sanford twice vetoed the incentive, but the Legislature overrode the vetoes both times.
Sanford and other opponents argued that it's unfair to subsidize some retailers, who would compete with other, unsubsidized retailers. It's a controversy that's been repeated in other states, where Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's have each been successful in attracting tax breaks.
The sales tax incentive sought in North Charleston for Bass Pro Shops comes on top of $120 million in public assistance that was approved in 2011 for the Ingleside Plantation development, through an arrangement called a tax increment financing district. A TIF uses property taxes that development is expected to generate to pay for infrastructure such as roads and utilities in the same area.
A similar financing mechanism was used to support development of the Tanger Outlet Mall in North Charleston and Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552