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New Charleston office complex lands tenants, including Cantonese restaurant

In early 2020, developers Thomas Nakios and Ross Cowan were ready to break ground on a new three-story, block-long office building on Charleston's upper peninsula. 

Then, the COVID-19 crisis swept across the nation, stalling the 115,000-square-foot Morrison Drive project — The Morris — for a year.

During that time, they made adjustments to their plans by upgrading the air systems and enlarging corridors and common areas.

Construction, which began in early 2021, is now mostly completed, and 35 percent of the two-building complex has already been leased. The first tenants could move in by late summer.

Coming to the new $50-million-plus structure will be a corporate office for Fifth Third Bank, the commercial real estate firm CBRE, LG|Capital Investors, The Raptor Group and three other unannounced tenants, according to Reid Davis of Lee & Associates, which is handling the leasing.

One of the unidentified tenants is a European-based private equity firm that plans to open its North American headquarters in Charleston. They will occupy 11,000 square feet on the third floor.

"We are in discussions with several other prospects for large blocks of space in the building," Nakios said.

The smaller structure will house XO Brasserie, an upscale Cantonese restaurant with Szechuan influence on the ground floor, while the structure's developer and investor, Cowan Nakios Group, tentatively plans to put its offices on the upper level.

A tree-shaded courtyard sits between the two structures and will serve as an outside dining area for the new restaurant and an open-air gathering place for tenants.

Shielded behind the main structure is a 347-space, five-tier parking deck that will include several spaces for restaurant patrons who can get tickets validated at the dining venue. The garage is accessible from Morrison Drive and Brigade Street.

The main 107,000-square-foot building includes open floor plans, large windows, terraces and private balconies.

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"Providing outdoor space for tenants has been a big draw," Cowan said.

To help shield the interior offices from the direct sunlight, vertical fins have been installed on the building's exterior. Awnings can be cranked out during the day for tenants with balconies.

Large tenant spaces, ranging from 14,000 to 18,000 square feet, anchor each floor on the office complex's south end. They can be subdivided, but Nakios and Cowan prefer not to, saying they want to focus on leasing the smaller offices elsewhere in the building first.

Along the hallways and near the glassy walls overlooking Morrison Drive, small nooks have been created for tenants' employees to work out of the office or to take a break and have lunch.

A space near the central staircase and the elevators will also serve as a gathering place for corporate events.

"The Morris is more hospitality-centric than a traditional suburban office building," Nakios said.

The development is north of the Ravenel Bridge off-ramp and across the street from restaurants Butcher & Bee and Edmund's Oast. It's also a few blocks away from the 12-story Morrison Yard office and retail complex that recently opened south of the span.

The developers said they chose the location because of the recent influx of restaurants, technology firms and new apartment developments in that section of the peninsula.

"We believe that as the Charleston market continues to grow, the North Morrison corridor will become the urban core of the city," Nakios said. 

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Reach Warren L. Wise at Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.


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