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New Lake Murray neighborhood sold out in a year. Now the developer is building another.
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COLUMBIA — After its first waterfront neighborhood sold out in a year, Charlottesville, Va., based American Land Holdings is developing its second north Lake Murray community.

When the company announced Palmetto Pointe, the first new lakeside subdivision to grace the shores of "The Jewel of South Carolina" in nearly a decade, in summer 2019, it became so popular that people were paying $250 just to get an early look at a lot.

Now developer Dean Sinatra hopes to repeat that success with Stewart Landing, a new 205-acre residential development near Newberry.

The popularity of Lake Murray, along with a high-performing school district, have been factors in making Lexington County the fastest growing in the Midlands. In 2019, the county's population rose by 1.5 percent, which is faster than the state's growth rate of 1.3 percent and the .4 percent growth next door in Richland County, according to the latest Census Bureau estimates. 

Home sales haven't slowed even as other parts of the economy ground to a halt amid the international coronavirus pandemic this year.

"For whatever reason, the flood gates opened," Sinatra said. "Folks want to get a little more rural and they realize they can work from home more."

Land around the lake rarely becomes available for new development. That combined with the nearby Samsung washing machine plant bringing 1,000 jobs and a need for new housing, Newberry could find itself home to the next population boom.

"We need rooftops," said Newberry County Economic Development Director Rick Farmer.

The development is named after the historic family home of Robert Stewart, a prominent Newberry merchant, that was built in 1842 and moved to the property 20 years ago. Sinatra is modeling Stewart Landing after popular Lowcountry communities like Mount Pleasant's Ion, Summerville's Nexton or Hilton Head's Sea Pines.

A vestige of the 2008 financial crisis, the previously foreclosed property was being held by Enterprise Bank in Walterboro when Sinatra bought it.

With 175 lots, ranging in size from 1/4 acre to 5 acres, homeowners will be able to choose between waterfront, water view, and interior properties. The homes will be built in groups of four or five located down a shared private drive off the main road, Sinatra said.

Lot prices will range from $10,000 to $200,000, with about a quarter of them having water frontage.

American Land Holdings is investing more than $15 million in the property, including water and sewer infrastructure upgrades to the Newberry County system. Factoring in the work done at Palmetto Pointe, that brings the company's total Lake Murray-area capital investment to more than $30 million in a two-year period.

The company specializes in the development of recreational waterfront vacation home communities. But a large chunk of buyers that filled Palmetto Pointe came from the local market, many wanting to move out of Lexington County due to overcrowding.

"Nobody wanted to take the risk being further out in Saluda County," Sinatra said. "I think now we've proven you can go to Newberry."

Stewart Landing is near other high-end communities and even closer than Palmetto Pointe to the towns of Lexington and Chapin and Interstate 26.

Amenities will include a 6,500-square-foot club house, 110-slip marina and walking trails.

The company is seeking final planning commission approvals with plans to start construction in February or March. Completion is planned for the second half of 2021, with a grand opening in September or October.

Back at Palmetto Pointe, 20 landowners have building permits and 16 homes are under construction. Those homes range from 2,000-square-foot weekend getaways to $750,000 villas on the water.

This story has been updated to correct the headquarters location of American Land Holdings.

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Columbia LED technology firm expanding into coronavirus sterilization equipment
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COLUMBIA — As the coronavirus has led to concerns about indoor ventilation, a Columbia ultraviolet LED maker is selling its technology as an air-sterilization system.

And it is expanding its Richland County manufacturing space to meet the new demand.

Sensor Electronic Technology Inc., a subsidiary of South Korea-based Seoul Semiconductor and Seoul Viosys, commonly known as SETi, is investing $55 million and will add 40 jobs to its facility on Atlas Road, south of Columbia. The county is granting the company tax incentives in exchange for its capital outlay. 

“We work every day not only to recruit new businesses to South Carolina, but to also take care of our existing companies like SETi," Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement.

SETi has largely worked in the research and development sphere for the last 20 years, creating UV LED products for various uses, including in sensors, biomedical devices and home appliances. But business took off when COVID-19 raised the need for sterilized public spaces.

In a statement, SETi CEO Chae Kim said the company has struck a deal to include its technology in sanitation products made by RGF Environmental Group Inc.

RGF is based in Florida and has global contracts to supply air conditioner manufacturers with air-purification equipment for HVAC systems.

SETi's technology may also gain traction with airlines as companies seek to keep their customers from contracting the coronavirus on flights, said Richland County Economic Development Director Jeff Ruble. 

SETi's expansion will take place in several phases, the first increasing the company's production capabilities tenfold. The company did not disclose its current production capacity.

In the second phase, the company said it will upgrade its semiconductor equipment and full expansion is expected to be complete by the third quarter of 2022.

To help cover the cost of expansion, SETi will receive a $250,000 state grant.

Richland County Council on Tuesday awarded the company tax incentives, reducing the property tax rate SETi will pay on its new investments over the next 30 years. 

“Their growth demonstrates how businesses can succeed here in Richland County," Council Chairman Paul Livingston said of the deal the county struck.

This deal is seen as another win that comes on the heels of one of the county's largest-ever economic development projects. Last month the county reached a tax abatement agreement with Mark Anthony Brewing, the maker of White Claw Hard Seltzer and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which is constructing a $400 million brewery in Lower Richland.

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Murphy to build new convenience store in front of longtime Columbia shopping center
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COLUMBIA —  A large convenience store will be built at the front of Columbia's Cedar Terrace Shopping Center, giving Murphy Express its latest location as it grows in the Midlands. 

Murphy's latest move to expand in the Midlands will include an eight-pump gas station and a convenience store, replacing a current building with a new one facing Garners Ferry Road across from the Dorn VA Medical Center.

The project received approval Thursday from Columbia's Board of Zoning Appeals, despite criticism from the nearby neighborhood's association.

The site plan includes a new median on Garners Ferry Road to restrict left turns to the traffic light on the busy connector between downtown and Columbia's east.

Murphy currently operates 13 locations in the Midlands, many under the Murphy USA banner at Wal-Mart locations. The company, however, is separate from the Arkansas giant and in recent years has focused on its Murphy Express line of free-standing large convenience stores, usually about 2,800 feet in size.

Murphy likes the Columbia market and has been looking for opportunities to grow here, said Tyler Brandt, real estate manager for the company. 

Garners Ferry Road, with more than 40,000 cars traveling past per day, has plenty of demand for the gas and convenience store items that Murphy provides.

The already crowded streets are a reason that the project should not be allowed, said Tige Watts, head of the Cedar Terrace neighborhood organization.

Too many accidents already occur where the Cedar Terrace drive meets Garners Ferry, and adding more traffic that might need to turn left to get on Interstate 77 is likely to make that worse, Watts said.

"Cedar Terrace already is a dangerous intersection," Watts said. 

Just last month, Murphy was approved by the board to add a convenience store at the intersection of Two Notch Road and Beltline.

Earlier this year, the company was rebuffed in its efforts to build a station downtown at Elmwood Avenue and Marion Street. Board members voting against that move cited the numerous other convenience stores already located along Elmwood. 

East Bay to the west side

East Bay Deli will add a restaurant location in Cayce's Parkland Plaza, expected to be open next spring.

The Charleston-based deli chain will use more than 3,000 feet at Parkland in space that used to house sports gear store Garnet and Black Traditions, said Rox Pollard of Colliers-South Carolina. Pollard and Danny Bonds of Colliers represented the landlord in the deal.

It will be the fifth East Bay location in the Midlands.

Other recent changes at Parkland, which was constructed in the 1950s, include the transition of the grocery store from Bi-Lo to Food Lion, expected to be complete in January. D's Wings also has plans to move out of the complex to a West Columbia location near Meeting Street next year.

Braking on Gervais

A long-ago Studebaker dealership in Columbia is headed back into the car business.

A plan for revised office space and a Midas auto repair shop in the 1500 block of Gervais Street has been submitted to the city's Design/Development Review Commission.

The plans include a new facade for the auto repair shop facing Gervais Street, across from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and renovated office space further back on the property.

According to the application, the building served as a Studebaker auto dealership in the 1950s. Studebaker was a classic American car company headquartered in Indiana that folded in 1966.

Since its heyday as an auto dealership, the building has been modified heavily to bear little resemblance to its earlier life as an auto showroom, according to the application. 

Moving Time

Rosewood Church has found a new location at 3705 Moss Ave., buying a church building from the S.C. Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church. The new building is an 8,500 square foot building. The longtime church building on Rosewood Drive is the subject of a planned redevelopment into loft-style apartments. ... Nuttall Tire will move into the former Dick Dyer Toyota location at 3215 Two Notch Road on Dec. 14, leaving its longtime building at the corner of Millwood and Gervais for additional space. 

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Have any Midlands business news to share in the column? Reach Mike Fitts at mfitts@postandcourier.com