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Charleston ILA union buys new headquarters, moves forward with move from Morrison Drive

Hill-Rom building (copy)

The Charleston chapter of the International Longshoremen's Association this week purchased the former Hill-Rom building at 4349 Corporate Road in North Charleston. File/David Wren/Staff

The union representing dock workers at the Port of Charleston paid more than $10 million for a commercial building this week, apparently advancing plans to relocate despite opposition from some union members.

The International Longshoremen's Association purchased the former Hill-Rom building at 4349 Corporate Road in North Charleston for $10.55 million from a corporation owned by Litton Entertainment founder and CEO David "Buddy" Morgan, according to county property records.

ILA Local 1422 officials have been trying to sell their current headquarters at 1142 Morrison Drive near downtown Charleston for $25 million. That property is still listed as available on several real estate marketing websites.

ILA building (copy) (copy) (copy) (copy)

The Charleston chapter of the International Longshoremen's Association wants to sell its headquarters at 1142 Morrison Drive for $25 million. File/Staff

The move to North Charleston has been contentious ever since Ken Riley, president of Local 1422, announced his plan to sell the peninsula property more than a year ago.

ILA members have voted several times against the sale, saying the proposed site near Interstate 526 and Leeds Avenue is too far from the port’s terminals, has limited access and is in poor condition. Riley appealed the membership’s votes this summer to the union's national office, which nullified the election.

The national office also suspended Riley and appointed Virgil Maldonado as trustee to oversee the Charleston site's operations. Maldonado represented the ILA in the Corporate Road purchase, according to the deed.

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An ILA spokesman said he did not immediately have information about the Charleston chapter's plans.

Riley told The Post and Courier in June that the Morrison Drive sale "will have a significant impact on the future of the ILA and the business it conducts on behalf of this (maritime) industry." He has pointed to limited parking and space at the site for the union's growing membership.

The ILA’s Charleston chapter has roughly 500 members, according to the Center for Union Facts. Its members load and unload cargo on container ships and car carriers. Separate ILA chapters provide mechanics, clerks and inspectors to the port.

The 31,640-square foot Morrison Drive building on nearly 4.5 acres is near technology businesses, breweries, restaurants and new apartments in a growing part of Charleston known as NoMo, a nod to its north Morrison Drive location. 

The building was completed in 2002 and designed by architect Harvey Gantt, the son of a Charleston shipyard worker who graduated from Burke High School and became the first black student to be admitted to Clemson University. He later was elected mayor of Charlotte.

The Corporate Road office was owned and occupied for years by Hill-Rom, an Indiana-based maker of hospital beds and other medical products. The company closed the North Charleston site in 2015 and sold the property to Morgan's group for $6.4 milllion about two years later.

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

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