N. Charleston awaits plan for old hospital, shopping center

The former Charleston Naval Hospital is part of the area the City of North Charleston plans to redevelop.

There’s been little but silence in the seven months since North Charleston announced a $9.2 million deal to sell a former shopping center and a vacant hospital in a deal that could help revitalize the southern part of the city.

But that’s about to change, according to Ray Anderson, special assistant to Mayor Keith Summey, who said the group planning to buy the property is expected to submit development plans to the city within two weeks.

If the city approves those plans the sale will be completed, and that would represent a large payoff on a big gamble.

The city bought the former Pinehaven shopping center, more recently known as Shipwatch Square, for nearly $3.2 million. Then, in October, the city bought the vacant Charleston Naval Hospital across the street, hoping to guide a 40-acre redevelopment on the two properties, aimed at bringing a full-service grocery store and new life to that part of the city.

The sale of both properties was announced in December, and it was said the deal would be completed no later than March. But months passed as the buyers inspected the hospital building, reportedly looking for potential environmental problems.

“They are still doing due diligence on the hospital, testing some fibers for asbestos,” the mayor said during a city meeting in April.

Those concerns have now apparently been addressed.

“Environmentally and all that, they are happy as a bug in a rug,” Summey said Thursday night following a City Council committee meeting.

The purchasers are known only by their company name, Chicora Gardens LLC. South Carolina laws allow people to create limited liability companies without disclosing who controls them, and Summey said the city is under a non-disclosure agreement with the buyers.

Anderson said the company plans to close on the purchase after the city approves their development plan. He said the LLC has put down a $1 million “earnest money” deposit that the city would keep if the deal falls through.

“If they back away, I’ve probably got a backup buyer,” Summey said.

He said that, broadly, the plan will still call for a full-service grocery store — the city’s top priority for the redevelopment — and medical or housing uses in the former hospital building. He said the city hopes to also build a new library on the property.

“After a grocery store, everything is pudding for us,” the mayor had said in December, when announcing the deal.

At that announcement, Steve Dudash of the engineering firm Davis & Floyd showed a preliminary site plan for the properties that included parks, a grocery store, office space and housing. The former 10-story hospital was to be rehabilitated into a health clinic and senior living with private apartments but communal dining.

The next several weeks will show how close that concept comes to the actual plans submitted to the city.

For now the former hospital, the tallest building in North Charleston, sits vacant at McMillan and Rivers avenues along with its 900-car parking lot. The hospital, which once employed 1,200, closed in 2010.

Across the street, the former shopping center is one huge, vacant lot, representing the city’s hope for a grocery store in an area where residents have few shopping options.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.