Real estate project at Patriots Point could top $300 million

Income from a proposed real estate deal at Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum would provide money to maintain the aging Yorktown carrier (above) and other ships at the Mount Pleasant tourist attraction.

A $300 million real estate project could start taking shape at Patriots Point over the next few years under a deal approved with a Charleston developer on Friday.

Bennett Hospitality got the go-ahead to lease 60 acres of state-owned land at the Mount Pleasant tourist attraction.

The Patriots Point Development Authority approved the 99-year deal with the company led by veteran hotel developer Michael Bennett.

A conceptual plan was unveiled for part of the property, which includes the existing parking lot and gift shop near the Yorktown aircraft carrier. It shows three hotels, office buildings and an amphitheater.

“We wanted another reason for locals to come out here,“ said Bennett. “Our idea is to create a destination, really a national destination, with hotel rooms, with office buildings, with restaurants, with music facilities.”

Patriots Point said the project Bennett is proposing “is estimated to top $300 million and generate annual revenue of around $60 million, creating 1,000 jobs.” Construction is expected to take between 15 and 17 years.

Joseph Von Nessen, an economist at the University of South Carolina who analyzed the transaction, said the lease deal could provide $50 million to the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum over 25 years.

The money is expected to help the authority pay for restoring the piers and maintaining the Yorktown and other attractions.

“Our board, attorney and staff feel that we have negotiated an excellent and fair lease for all parties involved,” Ray Chandler, board chairman, said in a written statement. “It’s one we think will provide Patriots Point long-term sustainable funds and prove to be a tremendous economic stimulus for Mount Pleasant, Charleston and the entire state.”

The agreement with Bennett still requires approval from the South Carolina Joint Bond Review Committee and the South Carolina Fiscal Accountability Authority. Chandler said he hopes that will happen by the end of June.

Patriots Point solicited proposals in 2014 from real estate developers who were interested in leasing the land. It picked Bennett Hospitality, and negotiations took 18 months.

“It’s almost surreal,” Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point, said of Friday’s lease approval.

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Bennett, who grew up in West Ashley, got his start in the lodging industry in the early 1990s by converting an apartment building into the Hampton Inn Historic District at Meeting and John streets near the Charleston Visitors Center. His company now owns 16 hotels and eight restaurants in four states, according to its website. Current projects include the proposed Ferry Wharf mixed-use development on about 18 acres between Patriots Point and the Ravenel Bridge and a $101 million hotel going up near Marion Square in downtown Charleston.

In the deal announced Friday, Bennett will have a two-year “inspection period” that will include obtaining zoning permits he will need. His company also will need to get approval from the Patriots Point board for its conceptual master plan and a more detailed development proposal.

When that period ends, Bennett Hospitality would start paying rent on the land within the next year, and it must begin work within the next three years, according to the lease terms. Construction must be completed over the following decade.

As the hotels and other income-producing buildings become operational, Patriots Point would start collecting a portion of the revenue proceeds based on a formula.

This isn’t the first time Patriots Point has allowed a private developer to build on its prime waterfront property. In the 1990s, it approved a 99-year lease for what is now the site of the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina.

Reach Allison Prang at 843-937-5705 or follow her on Twitter @AllisonPrang.