Carolina Nurseries land goes back to lender (copy)

A Charlotte developer wants to build industrial property on the former Carolina Nurseries site along U.S. Highway 52 near Moncks Corner. File

Interest in a long-vacant former nursery site near Moncks Corner is starting to heat up, with a Charlotte-based firm hoping to develop an industrial park on the property.

The Keith Corp. this month filed two permit applications with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control that would help pave the way for development of nearly 107 acres of the 362 acre tract at U.S. Highway 52 and Gaillard Road.

The requests don't specify the types of buildings proposed for the site or what kind of tenants might occupy them. The Keith Corp. did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The property is owned by an affiliate of The InterTech Group Inc. Robert Johnston, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at the North Charleston-based company, said Tuesday that plans for the site were confidential but will be announced soon.

Johnston said there has been "substantially increased interest" in the property in recent months, largely because of its access to a CSX Corp. railroad line. In addition to the industrial parcels, some of the site is being set aside for residential uses.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based rail carrier designated the Berkeley County property a "CSX Select" site in 2015, which means it offers highway access and existing utility infrastructure, and that soil testing and environmental assessments have already been conducted. Such sites can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to build industrial facilities, CSX said.

ZZ Real Estate, an InterTech affiliate, acquired the former Carolina Nurseries property in late 2010 during a public auction after no one stepped forward to outbid the debt that was owed by the nearly century-old plant wholesaler.

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InterTech's real estate arm had loaned about $12 million to the struggling business in March 2009 to help keep it on firm ground. Crippled by the recession, the nursery was unable to repay the money or find other financial backers, so the lender foreclosed on the tract.

Nearly 500 workers lost their jobs when the nursery closed, and ZZ Real Estate spent a couple of years selling off millions of plants that were part of the inventory.

The Keith Corp. is already familiar with Berkeley County. It's the developer of the Charleston Trade Center off Interstate 26 in Summerville, where German vehicle parts maker IFA is a tenant.

The North Carolina company has built more than 23 million square feet of industrial, office and retail space valued at more than $25 billion throughout the United States and other countries.

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