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Real estate investor buys VA's new SC prescription-filling hub

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Pill bottles move on a conveyor system through the VA's Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston last year. The prescription-filling hub is being moved to a new building in Palmetto Commerce Park. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

A real estate investment firm that acts as a landlord for federal agencies has acquired a newly built pharmaceutical clearinghouse in North Charleston designed to dispense millions of prescriptions each year. 

Easterly Government Properties Inc. announced the purchase of the Department of Veterans Affairs' new "Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy" from the developer of the building on Monday. The price was not immediately available.

The seller was Charleston-based CCP Investments LLC. 

The nearly 98,000-square-foot distribution warehouse is on a 8.6-acre site in Palmetto Commerce Park, between Ladson and Ashley Phosphate roads. It is replacing a similar but smaller prescription hub the VA has operated from a former Rivers Avenue shopping center since 1997. 

The government has signed a lease for the new site that expires in September 2040 and cannot be canceled, according to Easterly, which described the building as "highly automated." It includes about 22,000 square feet of office space.

The VA was running six mail-out pharmacies in California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas when it expanded the concept to the Lowcountry more than two decades ago to spread some of the growing workload.

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Last year, the agency estimated that its high-security Rivers Avenue site processed about 26 million orders in 2018, or 80 percent of all prescriptions written by doctors within its primary Southeast service territory, from Puerto Rico to West Virginia. It’s one of only two in the nation that's authorized to handle controlled substances.

The VA's new location will run on a two-shift schedule, each staffed by about 190 workers, Easterly said.

CEO William Trimble said the Palmetto Commerce Park property is another "bullseye, mission-critical government-leased asset" for the Washington, D.C.-based investor as it seeks to top $200 million in purchases this year.

Easterly is familiar with the Charleston market. 

About two years ago, it paid $24 million to buy the federal courthouse annex on Broad Street in downtown Charleston. In 2013, it purchased the office building that houses U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Faber Place in North Charleston for almost $25 million. 

Combined, those two properties generate more than $6 million in annual rental income, according to Easterly. The financial terms for the new VA lease were not immediately available. 

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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