A Florida company has revived its plans for an upscale neighborhood, public golf course and equestrian center on nearly 1,000 acres of untouched land along the Stono River. If approved, the development could lead to one of the priciest land deals ever on James Island.
The Ginn Co. has submitted new plans to the city of Charleston for what is known as Grimball Farms, a 975-acre parcel it owns at the southeastern end of the island. Plans call for about 240 homes, fewer than what the company previously proposed.
In 2005 Ginn sought to build about 600 single-family homes and marshfront condominiums on the property. It withdrew that proposal after city planners expressed concerns about such a large number of residences. A second proposal for 310 homes was later rejected by officials.
Both plans were highly controversial with nearby residents, who were concerned about congestion. Most of the traffic from the proposed community will spill out onto Folly Road.
"That's the biggest concern," said City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson, who represents some neighborhoods close to the property. "It'll come down to a question of what is an acceptable number of units."
Wilson said she could not predict how the public will react to Ginn's latest proposal.
Since the previous plans were turned away, the developer has vowed to preserve several Civil War battle sites. And most of the Grimball Farms property is open space, so developers would be able to avoid cutting down a large number of trees, Wilson said.
"It really takes getting back there on the property to see how much space is truly open," she said.
Only about a third of the property — 343 acres — can be developed, according to county property records. The rest is marshland.
Tim Mallard, a newly elected City Council member whose district includes the Grimball Farms site, said he hasn't seen the development plans but is "leaning in favor" of them. He will be sworn in on Jan. 14 and will likely have the opportunity to vote on the project when it comes up.
"I've heard a lot of great things about the project," said Mallard, a commercial real estate broker.
If the plans are approved, Ginn Co. said it would sell the property to investors who, in turn, have hired a Greenville-based company to develop the land.
The development group, run by golf legend Gary Player, would build a course designed by Player, said Ken Costanzo, president of Gary Player Real Estate. Player has designed more than 300 courses around the world.
Many Gary Player golf courses are surrounded by homes built with a flavor of South Africa, Player's home country, Costanzo said. Most of the developments are gated, but the James Island property would not be, a Ginn official said.
"If we are involved, it will be something Charleston has never seen before in terms of its high-end (characteristics) and uniqueness," Costanzo said.
Bobby Masters, executive vice president for Celebration, Fla.-based Ginn, said investors have the Grimball Farms property under contract for about $28 million. Ginn bought the land for almost $8 million in 2004.
Masters said the company wants to sell the James Island property to focus on two other local projects: the Promenade resort off Morrison Drive on the peninsula, and its land holdings at Patriots Points in Mount Pleasant.
"When we bought Grimball, we didn't have either of those properties," he said. "They changed our focus."
Both projects are still in the planning phases. Ginn will probably be ready to submit both plans for approvals next year, Masters said.
Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or email@example.com.