‘Great location’ for local industry sells for $22M

Completed armored vehicles made by Force Protection are lined up inside a building at the company’s Ladson campus in 2009. The property at 9801 U.S. Highway 78 recently sold for $22 million.

One of the region’s largest and oldest addresses for heavy industry has changed hands for only the second time since it was developed more than 40 years ago.

The former General Electric campus on 9801 U.S. Highway 78 across from Exchange Park in Ladson fetched $22 million in a recent sale, Charleston County land records show.

The buyers are Meeting Street LLC, which controls a nearly 81 percent stake in the 259-acre property, and EDANDJ Ladson LLC. The purchasers are affiliated with J.L. Woode Ltd., a real estate investment business with locations in Charleston and Chicago.

The former GE site includes seven buildings with a combined 590,000 square feet of factory and office space. It’s served by a Norfolk Southern rail line and has more than 100 acres of undeveloped land zoned for heavy industrial uses.

“It’s a great location,” said J. Luzuriaga, a partner in J.L. Woode. “You can’t replace those assets. The building quality is A-plus. ... I think we bought well-below replacement value.”

The most recent anchor tenant was Force Protection Inc., the armored military vehicle manufacturer that once employed more than 1,000 skilled workers at the property.

General Dynamics Corp. bought that business for $360 million in late 2011. Last year, the defense giant announced it was halting production at the Highway 78 factory amid dwindling demand for the blast-resistant troop carriers.

General Dynamics still occupies part of the campus along with a steel company, Luzuriaga said.

The new owners have been talking with the state Commerce Department and local economic development officials to help market the rest of the property to other businesses, he said.

“Right now, Charleston’s hot,” he said, referring in part to Volvo’s recent decision to build a 2,000-worker automobile plant in Berkeley County.

The buyers also have struck an agreement with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to assess and clean up polluted land contaminated by previous industrial users.

GE developed the core of the property in the late 1960s for a steam turbine plant that closed in 1985. RM Aerospace/Defense, a metal fabrication business owned by The InterTech Group Inc., bought it in 1988 for $8.92 million. New structures were added over the years.

Robert Johnston, executive president and chief strategy officer at North Charleston-based InterTech, said the location is top-notch, but the property “wasn’t a core asset for us .... so we took the opportunity to sell it.”

“It’s a wonderful asset, especially for what’s going on the area,” Johnston said this week.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.