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The 10-story Harborview Office Tower on Hagood Avenue is set to become a 250-room hotel. A public comment period for a proposed cleanup of the site is open until Nov. 21 at noon. File/Staff

The Harborview Tower on Hagood Avenue, which is slated to be converted into a 250-room hotel, is up for a cleanup contract due to possible pollutants at the site.

The Medical University of South Carolina put the 10-story office building up for sale last year, and Bennett Hospitality — the same developer opening Hotel Bennett near Marion Square and the $325 million Ferry Wharf complex on the Mount Pleasant side of Charleston Harbor — plans to buy the building and neighboring parking garage. 

From the mid-1950's until about 1971, the MUSC property was part of an area used as a municipal landfill, according to a notice from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. After the landfill was no longer in use, the area was covered with dirt, and several years later the existing office building was built. The site's use as a landfill "may have resulted in environmental pollution on the property," according to the notice. 

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Bennett Hospitality is planning a 250-room hotel in the MUSC office tower at 19 Hagood St. File/Provided rendering

Through Bennett's South Park Ventures, the cleanup contract would allow the Charleston-based developer to acquire the property as a "brownfields site" because of the past landfill use. That's a federal designation to indicate areas that may be complicated by the presence of pollutants. 

Under the proposed contract, South Park Ventures would not be held responsible for any pre-existing pollution on the property, in exchange for doing the remediation work. The company will test for contaminants and, if pollutants are found, will be required to take steps to eliminate risks to people or the environment. 

The public comment period for the cleanup proposal ends this Wednesday  at noon. Written, email and telephone comments are accepted. 

The land is still owned by MUSC, according to Charleston County land records. The medical university purchased the property for about $7.1 million in 1988. 

Over the summer, the Board of Zoning Appeals granted the special exceptions required to allow a hotel at the site. 

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Airbnb is driving up  accommodations tax collections in unincorporated area of Charleston County. File/Provided. 

Taxing matter

Driven by increased revenue from Airbnb short-term rentals, the hotel tax intake from unincorporated areas of Charleston County is now high enough that an advisory committee is needed to deal with the influx.

State law mandates that any municipality generating $50,000 or more in revenue from accommodations fees must form a committee to oversee how it's collected and spent. 

Last fiscal year, the county's unincorporated areas brought in about $80,000, finance director Corine Altenhein told Charleston County Council at a recent meeting. She cited the short-term rental site Airbnb as the reason for crossing the $50,000 threshold. 

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A memo given to council specified that the committee would have seven members. The document also outlined who the members can be — for example, two must be owners of lodging businesses in unincorporated Charleston County.

Elected officials didn't take any action and deferred the item. One option they tossed around was to ask the state if the accommodation tax revenue threshold could be raised. That would negate the need to form a new committee.

Talking tourism

South Carolina tourism and travel officials will be headed to the state capital in February for the 2019 Governor's Conference.

The annual three-day summit will be held downtown at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center from Feb. 18 to 20. 

Two speakers have been announced, Simon Bailey and Dustin Garis. Bailey, who has more than 30 years of hospitality experience, is a former sales director for the Disney Institute. Garis specializes in branding and has worked with Google, Southwest Airlines and Airbnb

The event will also include breakout sessions on sports marketing, tours of Columbia and a session where industry representatives can pitch stories to media attending the conference. The full agenda will be available on the event's website in the next several weeks. 

Early bird registration is open, but online registration will not be open until later in the month. Registration postmarked before January 30 is $399 for the full conference. Regular cost is $425. 

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.