With the release of a video earlier this week touting the benefits of the East Argent development, Hardeeville leaders are moving full speed ahead toward a project with the potential to transform an area of the city along U.S. 278.
The video — featuring city elected officials, staff, and a representative from the development — comes on the heels of preliminary approval from Hardeeville City Council of an amended development agreement.
The agreement between the city and the developer — which sets the stage for the possibility of bringing 9,500 homes, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, and about 20,000 new residents to a roughly 7,300 acre parcel just west of greater Bluffton — is expected to be finalized next month.
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“This is an exciting project for the city of Hardeeville,” Mayor Harry Williams said during a roughly 10-minute video posted to the city’s website Tuesday.
The East Argent project, which was announced last month, is the largest planned development in Hardeeville’s history and just one of several major developments to soon begin sprouting up along the city’s U.S. 278 corridor.
On the other side of the highway from the planned East Argent site is the future home of Latitude Margaritaville Hilton Head, a Jimmy Buffett-themed retirement community. That project, expected to break ground in early 2018, will include about 3,000 homes and a 290,000-square-foot retail center.
The first new homes within East Argent are expected to be built by early 2019, according to Jeff Coggin with developer Argent Land Holdings LLC.
While the proposed development is huge, it won’t all be built at once.
An estimated build-out schedule shows about 2,500 new homes and 500,000 square feet of commercial space completed by 2032, according to city documents.
The project’s first commercial center, planned for a roughly 100-acre property off S.C. 170 and “will include all the basic needs” such as retail shops and office spaces, Coggin said in the city’s video.
While Coggin said the project schedules and build-out estimates take into account the cyclical nature of the economy, he “anticipate(s) a really strong real estate market” over the next 15 to 20 years.
Williams has stressed on several that he believes the Jasper Ocean Terminal — a $4.5 billion port project planned for an area of Jasper County near the mouth of the Savannah River — will help spur new demand for a mix of different housing types, which will be provided within East Argent.
In the video, Hardeeville City Councilwoman Carolyn Kassel addressed the project’s proximity to local rivers and other ecologically sensitive areas.
The East Argent development agreement includes provisions for a conservation of a 1330-acre parcel as was the 1,500-acre area known as the “Great Swamp.”
The agreement ensures “these properties are protected (from development) in perpetuity,” Kassel said.
During a recent meeting of the Hardeeville City Council, Williams said, “We have a lot of questions about the environment, about storm water, and the processes that we go through to make sure this (development) is engineered properly.”
He said the development agreement provisions, along with the subsequent site plans and building permits required prior to groundbreaking, will help minimize pollution and runoff.
Another concern Williams said he has heard involves taxpayers shouldering the burden for new infrastructure necessitated by the East Argent project.
Coggin addressed this issue in the video, saying, “the project is designed to be self-funded” in regard to infrastructure such as roads, schools, and emergency services.
City documents show the project is expected to raise more than $110 million in development fees once completed.
“I’m sure our taxpayers will be happy to hear that,” Williams said.
Whether taxpayers in nearby Beaufort County communities will be happy about thousands of new neighbors along U.S. 278 remains to be seen.