North Charleston courting MUSC with $4 million land deal

Mayor R. Keith Summey

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey wants to spend up to $4 million for a tract of land at the corner of Mall Drive and Rivers Avenue — and then give part of it away to the Medical University of South Carolina.

“I think it’s a wise investment on our part and the fact that we will have that large of a presence of the Medical University in North Charleston, I think, is a win for both of us,” Summey said.

He’s hoping the city will buy about 24 acres on the corner of Mall Drive and Rivers Avenue, where MUSC will build a $40 million pediatric medical campus.

City Council is expected to support the proposal at its meeting Thursday. Last week, the Council’s Finance Committee voted to recommend approval, with Councilman Bobby Jameson casting the only dissenting vote.

Jameson said he didn’t believe the project is needed.

“Our primary responsibility is to look over the treasury of this city,” he said. “This is $4 million of that treasury which we are giving away ... I just don’t see that we should spend $4 million for so little return when we have so many needs in the city of North Charleston.”

About 1.4 acres of the tract is owned by Lee Lanier of Hartsville, with the rest belonging to Bellsouth Telecommunications, according to Charleston County property tax records.

Summey said he has been working on the project for about a decade. It will benefit the area, the city and the hospital, he said.

“We think it’s a great opportunity because it’s centralized to East Cooper, West Ashley, Summerville, downtown Charleston,” Summey said. “But we think it also will open up an opportunity for more people to experience the great care that the Medical University offers ... And quite honestly I think that this development starting will kindle the resurgence of the Rivers Avenue corridor from Durant Avenue to Aviation Avenue.”

An added benefit is that families from outside the area would likely stay at North Charleston hotels and eat at North Charleston restaurants, he said.

Medical University President David Cole agreed that the location is appealing and said the facility would fill a need.

“It’s becoming an increasingly outpatient world,” he said. “I believe it would be welcomed.”

Plans call for a 33,000-square-foot pediatric ambulatory surgical center with four operating rooms and three procedure rooms, pre- and post-operative recovery spaces and more. The project, which would open in mid-2017, has a price tag of $26.3 million.

A second phase of construction calls for a $14 to $16 million pediatric medical office building with an imaging facility, therapy, urgent care and 48 to 60 specialty exam rooms.

MUSC submitted a certificate of need application for the pediatric surgery center to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control on Dec. 12, asking to move four operating rooms from the Rutledge Tower to the North Charleston site.

“If you look nationally, the structure for children’s care is not having everybody come to your major flagship,” Cole said. “You have to have more outpatient facilities. We have two parallel tracks that we are pursuing very, very vigorously: getting that children’s hospital and having the regional presence. We are not trying to duplicate what we’re doing downtown.”

MUSC plans to build a new $350 million hospital on Courtenay Drive to replace the 28-year-old Children’s Hospital on Ashley Avenue. The facility, which will have space for more patients and expanded services, is scheduled to open in 2019.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.