A lender that was owed $24 million from the developers of the Noisette project has transferred the delinquent loan to another firm, prompting new questions about a rail line that runs through the North Charleston property.
The new lender's plans for the land could not be determined Monday, but the acquisition gives the company considerable sway in a high-stakes political debate that has erupted over the train tracks.
The loan is secured by about 230 acres on the northern end of the former Charleston Naval Base. The buyer is a new firm that's said to be closely affiliated with Bob Faith, a former head of the S.C. Department of Commerce, several people told The Post and Courier on Monday.
Faith and representatives of his Charleston-based real estate investment firm, Greystar Partners, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
The Noisette tract is the subject of a foreclosure lawsuit, and Pennsylvania-based Capmark Finance had been trying to force a court-ordered sale of the property to recover its debt.
But late Friday afternoon, Capmark transferred the Noisette mortgage to a murky Delaware entity called CHSA LLC, according to a document filed with the Charleston County Register of Mesne Conveyance.
Terms were not disclosed.
Andy Gowder, an attorney for the Noisette developer, said he did not know who or what was behind CHSA. He said he expects more details to emerge during a court hearing set for today in Charleston.
The land in question is owned by a real estate development company called Navy Yard at Noisette LLC. At today's hearing. Charleston County Master-in-Equity Judge Mikell Scarborough is scheduled to review a proposal to split up the land so that the parcels can be sold later at an auction.
Gowder said the foreclosure lawsuit is not affected by last week's mortgage transfer.
"Whether the noteholder is Capmark or someone else, it's the same process," he said Monday.
A sale of the land has not been scheduled. If the bids don't exceed the asking price, the deed will go to the lender, which in Noisette's case is CHSA.
CHSA was formed earlier this month, according to Delaware incorporation records. The registered agent is a clearinghouse for limited liability companies that businesses and individuals commonly use to shield their identities.
The transfer papers filed Friday show Columbia attorney Robert E. Stepp represented the new lender. Stepp did not return telephone messages Monday.
No other public information was available about CHSA, but people involved in the matter have been told that Faith's Greystar Partners is behind the venture.
Faith was Gov. Mark Sanford's first cabinet appointee, serving as the state's commerce secretary from 2003 to 2006. After resigning, he returned to Greystar, a national developer and manager of apartment complexes.
Should CHSA eventually take back the Noisette property, it would be the owner of property served by an existing rail line.
The city of North Charleston and state officials are at odds over whether to reactivate the old tracks to extend train service to the southern end of the former Navy base, where the State Ports Authority is building a new shipping terminal.
The Commerce Department has sponsored a rail plan that identified the Noisette property among possible locations for "intermodal" facilities where containers could be loaded onto and off of trucks or trains.
But an active commercial rail line could diminish the value of nearby land, something North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey vowed to fight to protect. Also, Summey has said that running rail through Noisette would violate an agreement with the SPA and hurt the revitalization progress made in that part of the city.
He recently signed an agreement with rail operator CSX Corp. and Shipyard Creek Associates that calls for redevelopment of another site, CSX's Cooper Yard and Shipyard Creek's Macalloy property, into a rail facility to serve the new port terminal.
But CSX's rival, Norfolk Southern Corp., has argued publicly that it has the right to run trains through the north end of the base, raising Summey's ire.
S.C. Public Railways, an arm of the state Commerce Department, has sided with Norfolk Southern. It also has maintained the stance that the tracks on the Noisette site are a public utility.
Jeff McWhorter, president of S.C. Public Railways, referred questions to the Commerce Department. Agency spokeswoman Kara Borie could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Summey, through an assistant, said Monday that he did not know the identity of Noisette's new lender. He has a meeting with Noisette officials scheduled for today.
Allyson Bird and John McDermott of The Post and Courier contributed to this report.