The struggling Boeing Co. division that builds commercial jets confirmed reports last week that it's considering relocating its headquarters southeast of Seattle.
At the same time, it’s looking to clear up any speculation about the possibility of moving the home office from Renton, Wash., to South Carolina, a state that has been a source of aerospace angst in the Pacific Northwest ever since the planemaker announced it would build a 787 assembly line in North Charleston more than a decade ago.
The company is reassessing its global real estate needs in large part because of the dramatic financial damage COVID-19 has inflicted on its passenger jet business. Every asset it rents or owns is on the table, including the Chicago headquarters.
Boeing already has made a real estate-related move locally. Earlier this month, it asked for and received a 10-year extension on an option to buy the 214-acre Dreamliner campus it leases off of International Boulevard from the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Over in Washington state, another idea that’s being bandied is to completely do away with the traditional and costly brick-and-mortar headquarters setup, according to a recent report in the Seattle Times. One reason is that Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, wants to be "closer to where the products are being built,’ ” an unidentified senior executive told the newspaper.
That’s not to say he’s willing to ditch Seattle for, say, a full-time office suite in North Charleston. The news article reported that Deal visits the South Carolina plant about once a month, but he’s not aiming to ruffle any more feathers back home in the Evergreen State, according to a memo issued to management.
"Commercial Airplanes leadership will remain in the Puget Sound region," the message stated loud and clear.
Specifically, the company is eyeballing Boeing Field in Seattle and its campus in nearby Everett, executive Bill McSherry said last week.
The latest source of South Carolina heartburn for Boeing’s Puget Sound workforce was the Oct. 1 decision to shut down the 787 line in Everett and consolidate all Dreamliner production in North Charleston. The transition will begin next year.
A holiday ski trip to the Mile High City from the Holy City will be easier to navigate this year for travelers who are ready and willing to fly.
Frontier Airlines is adding nonstop flights between Charleston and Denver for about three weeks through early January, according to its website.
The service will be offered on Thursday and Sunday only, from Dec. 17 to Jan. 3. The nearly four-hour trip leaves Charleston International at 1:50 p.m., putting on the ground at around 3:45 p.m. Mountain time. Round-trip fares start at $338.
Frontier offered the westbound route over the summer last year before the coronavirus forced the airline to scuttle its return earlier this year.
The Denver-based carrier hasn't said when service will return after the holidays, but its website shows a flight leaving three times a week, on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, from April 13 until Sept. 5.
A lot of grief
The former owner of a North Charleston parking lot is a step closer to reclaiming control of the property because the current owner has failed to respond to a foreclosure lawsuit.
That's not much of a surprise seeing how the current owner is serving time at the Moshannon Valley Correctional Institute in Philipsburg, Pa.
Savraj Gata-Aura, owner of the Park & Go lot on Montague Avenue, will be locked up until 2024 for his role in a Ponzi scheme that cost 800 investors worldwide roughly $36 million. The parking lot, which was marketed to travelers as a cheaper place to leave their cars than at Charleston International, was not part of the New York-based scheme, although Gata-Aura was soliciting investments to buy similar parking lots across the country.
The Park & Go site went into foreclosure shortly after Gata-Aura pleaded guilty. Adam and Jay Vane, whose family had operated the lot since 2001, said in a lawsuit filed in Charleston County that Gata-Aura borrowed money from them to buy the property and then failed to repay the loan. They say Gata-Aura owes them nearly $1 million.
Court records show Park & Go LLC, the company Gata-Aura formed to buy the lot, was served with foreclosure papers Aug. 17. Gata-Aura had 35 days to respond. The Vanes last week filed court documents alleging Park & Go LLC is in default — a move that typically precedes being declared a lawsuit's winner. They also are asking a judge to sell the lot at auction so they can recoup their money.
Meanwhile, Gata-Aura — also known as prisoner number 86911-054 — is spending his days at the Moshannon Valley facility, a privately owned prison under contract with the federal government to house male inmates.
A restaurant investor from the West Coast has acquired a taste of the Caribbean by way of North Charleston.
Four Corners Property Trust recently forked over $2.82 million for the Bahama Breeze Island Grille that’s being built on a former Sears-owned parcel at Northwoods Mall.
The acquisition was first announced about a year ago, when the publicly traded real estate firm agreed to buy 23 shopping center outparcels from Seritage Growth Properties for about $68 million. The North Charleston sale was recorded with the county on Oct 9.
“The Bahama Breeze is located in South Carolina and is situated within a highly trafficked and populated corridor,” Four Corners said in a brief written statement.
The 2.2-acre site once housed a Sears automotive center. The struggling retailer stopped servicing cars at Northwoods when it pulled out of the shopping center in 2017. Seritage, which Sears Holdings spun off in 2015 to take over much of its real estate holdings, still owns the former main department store at the Rivers Avenue mall.
The recent outparcel sale to Four Corners included a 10-year lease with Bahama Breeze, which is part of casual-dining giant Darden Restaurants.
It will be the first South Carolina location for the island-theme concept. COVID-19 disrupted the construction schedule so the opening of the 7,300-square-foot North Charleston restaurant has been pushed back. The chain is now scheduled to make its Palmetto State debut in the the first half of next year, a Darden representative said last week.
The new landlord is based in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco. It's one of the largest owners of restaurant-specific real estate in the country, with 733 properties in all but four states.
Expanding to the southwest
The number of passengers that Southwest Airlines has been able to draw from the Hilton Head Island market to Charleston is about to make a rapid descent.
The Texas-based carrier announced last week it'll expand its flight footprint to Savannah-Hilton Head International for the first time sometime next year. The launch date was not specified, nor were the planned destinations or ticket prices.
“We also look forward to bringing travelers from across our extensive network to two of the country’s best leisure destinations: Savannah and Hilton Head Island,” Steve Goldberg, a senior vice president for Southwest, said in a statement.
Currently, Charleston International is the nearest airport for residents from that area who want to fly with the Dallas-based airline. Southwest has served CHS since 2011. Savannah-Hilton Head is about 110 miles away, in fittingly enough, a southwesterly direction.
An aerospace and defense giant is investing more than half-a-billion dollars in a plant in the Southeast region, but the Palmetto State lost out to its neighbor to the north for the 1 million-square-foot advanced manufacturing deal.
Raytheon Technologies Corp. announced last week it picked Asheville, N.C., for an expansion of its engine-making subsidiary Pratt & Whitney. It also considered South Carolina and Tennessee, according to Raleigh's WRAL,
The $650 million investment will support 800 jobs — with an average wage of $68,000 — through 2027, the N.C. Department of Commerce said.
It's possible the Tar Heel State had a leg up in courting Raytheon, as the company's aerospace business is headquartered in Charlotte.