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With the amount of cargo moving through the Port of Charleston (above) on the rise and available land becoming more scarce, the State Ports Authority is considering buying property near Ridgeville for future industrial development. Leroy Burnell/Staff/File

As residential development pushes farther into rural Dorchester County, the State Ports Authority is looking to preserve land for future industrial uses in the Ridgeville area.

The maritime agency is negotiating with WestRock Co. to buy roughly 750 developable acres of land on the along the eastbound side of U.S. Interstate 26 near exit 187, said Jim Newsome, the SPA's president and CEO.

The site would be developed with warehouses and distribution centers for cargo moving to and from the Port of Charleston, located about 40 miles away.

"We're hopeful to create a complex out there around where Volvo is, but on the other side of the interstate," Newsome said. "The bottom line is we need to make sure all the land around here doesn't turn into houses."

A WestRock spokeswoman could not immediately confirm details of the proposed sale. The paper and packaging company has been selling off its land holdings as it winds down its real estate development business. 

The property is one of the few available sites in that area with existing rail service, with a Norfolk Southern line that can connect the site to the port.

Newsome said the SPA has made an offer on the property but has not finalized a deal.

"We haven't pulled the trigger on a contract because we still have some due diligence to do," he said.

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The SPA's board of directors is expected to vote on whether to proceed with the purchase during its meeting next month.

A proposed sale price was not disclosed.

In addition to warehouses and distribution centers, Newsome said he hopes a "transload" facility can be built at the site where port-bound exports could be transferred from trucks to rail cars.

The I-26 corridor between Ridgeville and Summerville is home to several industrial parks with available properties. The area is one of the Charleston region's hottest industrial markets because of access to the port and a $1.2 billion manufacturing campus being built by Volvo Cars along the westbound side of the interstate.

Residential developers are also eyeing property in the area for new homes as the Charleston region attracts people to fill thousands of jobs being created each year by manufacturers and others.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_