Meandering through groves of freshly budded trees and accompanied by a pedestrian/bike lane is the newly minted extension of the Palmetto Commerce Parkway.
In 20 years, the cut-through between Ladson and Ashley Phosphate roads could carry 16,000 vehicles a day. Some of those cars and trucks will be traveling to jobs in the Palmetto Commerce Business Park, which is the new frontier for development along the mostly untouched stretch.
Already there are Daimler Vans Manufacturing, Cummins turbo diesel, Boeing's interiors fabrication facility and Shimano, among others. They were drawn by the first 1.6-mile leg of the road that was built before the last four miles opened in March.
But the road's new section also includes driveways to nowhere that dart off the sides of the freshly laid asphalt, designed in conjunction with central turning lanes for the development that everyone expects to come one day.
Several projects already are in the works.
Roper St. Francis Healthcare is eyeing a 24-acre tract at the juncture of Patriot Boulevard and Palmetto Commerce Parkway for a new 10,000-square-foot data center that will tie its scattered information technology functions together within two years. It will employ a few hundred workers.
Charleston County owns a 15-acre parcel nearby where a 38,000-square-foot consolidated dispatch center will open in 2013 and house 150 employees.
Crosspoint industrial park is aggressively marketing 305 acres behind the Roper and Charleston County tracts for new suppliers of Boeing and other industries.
Weber USA owns about 450 undeveloped acres already zoned for industry in what's known as Ingleside Plantation on both sides of the Palmetto Commerce Parkway, adjacent to the Daimler and Crosspoint tracts.
The parkway's completion lays out a welcome mat for developers.
"I see much more increased activity and interest," Eric Meyer of Meyer Kapp & Associates real estate company said. Meyer is marketing the Ingleside tract. "There's a number of live prospects out there."
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said there's no doubt the $36 million road's completion is a new avenue for development.
"I see more industry coming our way," he said. "We have opened up another eight to 10 years of property for growth."
Most of the newly opened section of the parkway does not have water and sewer, but Summey said if the city lands the right project, it wouldn't take long to put utilities in the ground.
"The road is going to enable development all along it," Woody Kapp of Meyer Kapp & Associates said. "There are certainly industrial interests that will be formulating because of it."
Crosspoint marketer Mike White agrees.
"I think you are going to see a development plan emerge for the rest of that property," said White, vice president of CBRE-Carmody, LLC real estate group.
Signs along the parkway beckon interest for the Crosspoint tract, which can produce 2 million square feet of manufacturing space, according to White.
"We are marketing the Crosspoint site to potential suppliers of Boeing who are looking to come to Charleston," he said. "We hope to have a speculative building in 2011 that would be ready for occupancy in the first quarter of 2012."
While the metro area is dotted with empty commercial properties, White said there is not an abundance of first-class industrial buildings and the Lowcountry is at a tipping point.
"If we don't build new Class A buildings, we risk losing some of the new companies that will supply Boeing," he said. "They will go elsewhere."
He predicted the established business park around Daimler and Boeing will develop faster than the newly open section of road because it already has utilities and permits in place.
Charleston County Economic Development Director Steve Dykes agreed.
"With the infrastructure incomplete (on the new section), we are focusing our attention on Palmetto Commerce Business Park," he said. "We still have some significant properties in there."
Nevertheless, Dykes realizes property owners along the new route now look at their property differently than they did before.
"Quite a few acres are being opened up that were unable to be reached before," he said. "The potential is great out there. In months ahead, it will become more apparent."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524.