One of the Lowcountry's premier shopping centers is now in the hands of a new owner after one of Charleston County's largest real estate transactions in recent years unfolded Monday.
Baltimore-based Continental Realty Corp. bought Mount Pleasant Towne Centre for $147 million, the priciest acquisition to date for the 60-year-old investment and management company. Other investors in the deal include a Charleston real estate development firm.
The open-air property is among five multi-tenant retail sites Continental acquired over the past year for a combined $225 million spread over 1.2 million square feet of retail space.
Towne Centre's previous owners, a partnership between an affiliate of Illinois-based Miller Capital Advisory and the California Public Employees' Retirement System, paid $134.25 million for the roughly 51-acre site in 2006, four years after it sold for $55.25 million, according to Charleston County land records.
The sellers did not immediately respond Monday for comment about the sale.
Konover Property Trust developed Towne Centre in the late 1990s at a cost of about $40 million.
Anchored by Charlotte-based department store Belk, the 510,000-square-foot shopping destination is in the middle of South Carolina's fourth-largest municipality and one of the fastest-growing towns in the nation. About 90,000 people with a median household income of more than $97,000 call Mount Pleasant home.
"This represented an excellent opportunity to acquire an institutional-quality lifestyle center within a very high barrier-to-entry market that serves one of coastal Carolina's most affluent and fastest-growing residential populations," David Donato, senior vice president of operations for Continental Realty, said in a written statement.
"It is highly unlikely a property similar in nature will ever be built again in this submarket," Donato said. "You can see the very early beginnings of an improvement in the tenant mix, which we plan to take to the next level."
Towne Centre is currently 96.4 percent leased and is close to signing additional tenants, according to Donato.
In recent years, a 92-room Hyatt Place Hotel, a 500-space parking deck and new restaurants have sprung up on the property between U.S. Highway 17 and Hungryneck Boulevard, boosting its value.
The shopping center, with more than 60 stores, boasts other major tenants such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Barnes & Noble and Regal Palmetto Grande Cinemas. The theater aims to install a new 4DX auditorium to enhance the movie-going experience by immersing film enthusiasts with motions, scents and simulated weather elements.
The mix of tenants has changed in recent years with upscale merchants such as Arhaus Furniture, Blue Mercury cosmetics, Lululemon yoga apparel and Peloton home-cycling shop.
"Measured by any metric, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre is an irreplaceable real estate property that represents the ideal high-value asset we seek for our investors," Continental CEO J.M. Schapiro said. "We believe no other retail venue provides a similar scope of entertainment, restaurant and retail offerings in this marketplace."
Among the other investors is The Beach Co., a Charleston-based real estate developer. CEO John Darby called it a "once-in-a-lifetime acquisition."
Bayer Properties of Birmingham, Ala., has been the property manager for the past few years. The site will now be managed through Continental Realty.
The buyer owns three other income-producing properties in South Carolina, including West Ashley Shoppes on Orleans Road across from Citadel Mall and two apartment communities in Greenville and Bluffton.
In all, Continental owns and manages more than 5 million square feet of commercial space as well as almost 10,000 apartment units across the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.