North Charleston is high bidder for former Naval Hospital

The former Charleston Naval Hospital. (Staff/File)

The city of North Charleston, in an apparent change of heart, submitted the high bid of nearly $1.95 million for the former Charleston Naval Hospital.

Spokesman Ryan Johnson said the offer will now be considered by the U.S. General Services Administration, the agency that disposes of the federal government’s excess real estate.

According to GSA, “an acceptable bid is one received from a responsible bidder, whose bid, conforming with the Invitation for Bids, will be most advantageous to the Government.”

North Charleston City Council will most likely take further action on the surprise offer at its meeting tonight, Johnson said. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

The General Services Administration began seeking buyers for the boxy, 10-story structure and the surrounding land through an online auction that lasted several weeks.

The bidding for the 24-acre site at 3800 Rivers Ave. opened at $100,000 on Sept. 13.

The auction drew five participants, the sales website showed.

The would-be buyers, who had to put down $50,000 each, were not identified. North Charleston disclosed this week that it was a bidder early on. As of late last week the city said it wasn’t interested in buying the building.

“We’re not going to be purchasing it.” Johnson told The Post and Courier on Friday.

It’s unclear why the city changed its mind, though Mayor Keith Summey views the property as important to efforts to revitalize that blighted area.

If the government accepts the offer, the city will get title to the 368,000-square-foot main building, the three-story former enlisted quarters, tennis and basketball courts, and parking for about 900 vehicles,

The 175-bed hospital at Rivers and McMillan avenues was the fifth that the Navy built over the course of more than seven decades to support the Charleston Naval Base and Shipyard.

It opened in 1973 and employed more than 1,200 health care workers before the Navy decided in the early 1990s to close the adjoining base and shipyard.

As patient numbers waned, the Pentagon gradually shut down portions of the hospital, which was a walk-in clinic when it was closed for good two years ago. At the same time, the Navy began offering health services at a newly built medical center on the Naval Weapons Station.

The vacant hospital is in a blighted area that private developers and North Charleston officials have struggled to revitalize. For example, the city bought the old Shipwatch Square shopping center across Rivers Avenue from the hospital for $2.5 million in 2010, but it hasn’t yet been able to attract a full-service grocery store to the cleared site.

See Friday’s editions of The Post and Courier for more details.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.