A textile firm that completed a $9 million expansion of its long-running Summerville plant last year has sold the 43-acre property after abruptly shutting down and moving the business overseas.
Thrace Linq, which makes engineered fabrics for the automotive, construction and floor covering industries, cited a bright future in South Carolina when it completed its new production line off U.S. Highway 78 in 2019.
On Tuesday, the company signed over the deed to its property, its production line and equipment to a Boston-based real estate group after moving its former Lowcountry operations to Scotland.
An affiliate of GFI Investors purchased the 563,154-square-foot building on 43 acres at 2550 W. 5th St. for $14.5 million, according to Dorchester County property records.
The group plans to renovate the site with a new roof, parking lot, paint and rehabilitation of the adjacent Norfolk Southern rail site. GFI will rebrand the property as Eastport Industrial Complex.
A spokesperson for GFI could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.
The sale marks an abrupt departure for Thrace Linq, which has a small staff winding down operations at the site.
Its plant was opened in 1972 by Exxon Chemical Co., which sold it in the 1992 to an investment group that renamed it Linq Industrial Fabrics.
For years, the company ranked among Dorchester County's largest employers, with as many as 600 workers.
Last year, Thrace Linq finished an expansion that was aimed at meeting what the company called a growing demand for petroleum-based "nonwoven" fabrics in North America.
"This new production line is one of a series of planned investments for our growing company here in South Carolina," George Bramis, chairman of Thrace Linq said at the time.
Later in 2019, Thrace Linq's parent company in Greece determined that equipment and operations would move to Scotland to become part of the parent company's Don and Low subsidiary.
Athens-based Thrace Group cited slowing demand for its products in the United States as one of the reasons for the move.
The building adds to GFI's Charleston-area portfolio, which includes industrial properties at 4500 Goer Drive and 7240 Crosspark Drive, both in North Charleston.
It's also part of a growing trend of investors renovating older manufacturing sites for tenants who balk at the cost of new construction.
"Speculative construction has slowed down since the coronavirus," said Hagood Morrison Jr., vice president of Charleston-based Bridge Commercial, which brokered the sale. About 200,000 square feet of industrial space is currently under way in a market that typically absorbs 1.5 million to 2 million square feet a year.
"This creates more opportunity to lease a repositioned, older and less-expensive building," he said.
That was the case for GFI's property on Goer Drive, which the investment group bought for $8.5 million 2016. The property had been vacant for several years before GFI refurbished it and leased it to Mid-States Packaging, which bundles plastic pellets used in thousands of household goods for export at the Port of Charleston.
Morrison said the Thrace Linq site will be marketed to manufacturers and distributors and will likely include several tenants. He said the Charleston area continues to draw interest from industrial clients but a lot of financing for new construction has dried up due to the coronavirus.
"Demand has remained strong with the impacts of near-shoring and supply chain consolidation, and those users are seeing fewer available options on the horizon," Morrison said. "That bodes well for manufacturing plant repositioning, such as Eastport Industrial Complex."