Camp Hall project remains on track as developer Santee Cooper fights for its future
Even with its own future uncertain, Moncks Corner electric utility Santee Cooper is pushing ahead with development of an ambitious Berkeley County commerce park designed to combine work with play.
The Camp Hall Commerce Park off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville aims to provide manufacturing and distribution jobs while offering walking trails, retail stores and other amenities workers say they want in a 3,958-acre package next to the Volvo Cars campus.
Santee Cooper — the state-owned electric utility that owns and is developing the park — plans to spend $53.2 million on the amenities. It would recoup that money through future property and energy sales to the businesses that set up shop at Camp Hall. Construction has already started on some of the infrastructure, and the first industrial parcel has been sold.
The utility also is working with the county to create an “improvement district” within Camp Hall that would assess property owners a fee to offset roughly $1.1 million in annual maintenance costs for the amenities. County Council last month approved a resolution supporting the concept — the methodology for assessments hasn’t been finalized — and will hold a public hearing March 9 on the proposal.
All of that work is taking place as state legislators in Columbia debate whether Santee Cooper will even exist beyond the next few months.
Legislators soon will receive a pair of bids from other utilities interested in either buying or taking over management of Santee Cooper. They also will consider a proposal from Santee Cooper that would let the utility continue operating under state control. Lawmakers are expected to choose one of those three.
It’s all part of the fallout from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion, a partnership between Santee Cooper and SCANA Corp. Santee Cooper racked up $3.6 billion in debt for the project before both utilities scuttled it among a political firestorm. SCANA, parent to S.C. Electric and Gas, was sold last year to Dominion Energy.
Santee Cooper spokeswoman Nicole Aiello said she can’t speculate on what will happen to Camp Hall if the utility faces the same fate as SCANA. Until the bids are made public, it isn’t clear what the other utilities might decide to do with the industrial park or Santee Cooper’s other assets.
Legislators have indicated the bidders’ willingness to play a continued role in economic development projects, such as Camp Hall, will play a role in their decision.
So, for now, it’s business as usual at Camp Hall.
“Some construction is currently underway at the village center area, including work on a lake. We also have some of the trail system completed,” Aiello said, adding that retail shops and other public facilities will be phased in over the next few years depending on the demand from industries and workers at the park.
Santee Cooper also is designing the structures that will be built at the village center — a collection of service businesses such a day care, dry cleaner and bank that people typically need during work hours.
“We have strong interest from service providers like convenience stores and health services,” Aiello said, adding that other buildings will likely house worker training programs and community groups. “We are also considering multi-purpose fields to support recreation of Camp Hall’s workforce.”
The utility is marketing the industrial sites and the first was purchased in 2018 by Exeter Property Group, which plans a three-building warehouse and distribution center on 75 acres that will employ 371 people.
Camp Hall also is attracting developers outside the park’s boundaries. Columbia-based Ecstatic Properties LLC has obtained zoning approval for a 240-unit apartment complex on S.C. Highway 27 near its interchange with I-26.
“Our whole development proposition is to provide workforce housing to all the employees at Camp Hall,” said John Cattano, vice president of Ecstatic Properties. “There is a lot of demand for workforce housing and we are specifically targeting that market.”
Cattano said the apartments will rent for about $200 less per month than what is currently available in the area. Construction of the 26-acre project located within a federal Opportunity Zone is scheduled to begin in June, with the first apartments available in spring 2021.BUSINESS
Camp Hall got a boost last summer when a new interchange on Interstate 26 opened, providing direct access to the industrial park that eventually aims to employ 15,000 people.
And last month, the South Carolina Power Team said it will provide a $2.175 million grant to be used for design and engineering work on a sewer system serving Camp Hall.
Palmetto Railways, a division of the S.C. Commerce Department, also is building a rail link between the Volvo Cars site and a CSX Corp. line near Santee Cooper’s electric generating station in Cross. While that line will primarily move Volvo vehicles for distribution to U.S. dealerships, it also can be used by industries that open within the Camp Hall project.