Old hospital almost gone: Developer to clean up site near I-26, ready it for eventual sale

Demolition of the old Baker Hospital building off Azalea Drive, which housed offices for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, should be completed next month. The site eventually will be on the market.

Drivers along Interstate 26, where the road straddles downtown and North Charleston, might notice a storied building coming down.

Demolition of the old Baker Hospital building off Azalea Drive, which later became Roper North and most recently the office space for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, should finish next month. When the business engine pulled out earlier this year, its move fast-tracked the building on Speissegger Drive toward its ultimate demise.

The property sits atop arsenic- and lead-contaminated soil from a former phosphate mining and chemical plant site previously owned by ExxonMobil Corp. Ashley II of Charleston, an LLC composed of local developer Robert Clement and Raleigh-based Cherokee Investment Partners, now owns the property.

Jonathan Scott, spokesman for Clement, said the demolition makes it possible to remove the dangerous earth beneath it. Known as Ashley River Center, the nearly 57 acres of high ground eventually should hit the real estate market, Scott said.

"It's just another step in the environmental remediation of that site with the goal of positioning the project for its eventual sale," Scott said.

Developers initially planned to transform the land into offices, hotels, residences, retail space and recreational areas, but these days, Scott said, "it's market-driven as to what it becomes."

Constructed in 1981, the two-story building first housed Baker Hospital, when the facility moved from downtown. In 1992 Baker and Roper came together under the ownership of the Medical Society of South Carolina, and the hospital eventually became Roper North.

Roper North closed in 2001, citing a declining number of patients at the tough-to-reach location. Despite its proximity, the building lacks direct interstate access.

The chamber operated there from 2004 to March of this year, when it relocated to North Charleston's Leeds Park International.