South Carolina Electric & Gas is investing $12 million to build a new corporate campus in North Charleston, where the power company plans to bring much of the its local operations under one roof.
The development is taking shape on Aviation Avenue, near a site where the utility currently services its fleet vehicles. Roughly 350 employees will report to the new offices when the consolidation is completed next summer, the company said.
Danny Kassis, the utility's general manager of electric service coordination, said the move will make SCE&G more efficient and enable it to be better prepared to respond to hurricanes and other disasters.
'It makes sense to us from a business perspective,' Kassis said.
As part of the project, demolition crews already have leveled a former movie theater that most recently housed The Plex, a nightclub and entertainment complex that shut down last year.
In its place, SCE&G plans to build a 51,000-square-foot structure that will include a call center, claims department, security, administrative offices and distribution dispatch center.
The company also bought a neighboring 12,000-square-foot building that will eventually house maintenance operations, meter readers and computer-assisted dispatchers.
The move will allow the company to close existing offices on Leeds Avenue and Ashley Phosphate Road in North Charleston and on King Street in Charleston, where line workers are based along with equipment and trucks.
Other SCE&G outposts in Summerville, Mount Pleasant and on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston will not be affected.
No employee layoffs are associated with the consolidation.
Kassis said the utility realized the need for a more secure, sturdy campus in 1999. As the company was preparing for Hurricane Floyd that year, weather forecasters gave dire predictions for how high the storm surge could rise.
'Some of the areas here at Leeds Avenue might have been under water,' Kassis said. 'We started to think ... if it did happen, what we would do?'
He said by pooling together certain services and crews, the company will be able to respond more quickly in emergency situations. The new building is being designed to withstand 130 mile-per-hour winds. It also will be elevated beyond reach of a storm surge.