Call it the year of businesses thinking big -- 2012 saw plans for a giant casino and resort, plans for a remaking of The Mall at Shelter Cove, and plans for a redeveloped Coligny area.
Some of those plans will come to fruition in 2013; others, alas, remain on the drawing board.
One plan still confined to schematics was deemed southern Beaufort County's top business story of 2012 -- an Indian casino and resort in Hardeeville proposed last winter. Developers say it would create 4,700 jobs statewide, including more than 2,000 on site, and bring $92 million in wages, salaries and benefits to Jasper County, not to mention more than 4 million visitors each year.
But Gov. Nikki Haley, whose signature is a must for project approval, has flatly said she would not allow it to move forward. The Republican said there are better ways to grow jobs and bring business to the area.
Project backers will have to wait until the 2014 gubernatorial race to see if another candidate, more open to gambling, will OK the plan, although Hardeeville town manager Bob Nanni said in November that he wants to reinvigorate the project in the coming year.
In other business news:
2. The Mall at Shelter Cove to get a makeover: Hilton Head leaders and an affiliate of The Kroger Co. paired to redevelop the 42-acre Mall at Shelter Cove. The new space will include a community park, a Kroger grocery store, nearly 300,000 square feet of commercial space and more than 200 apartments. Interior demolition is already under way. Exterior demolition is scheduled for mid-January.
3. Coligny redevelopment could include University of South Carolina Beaufort satellite: The Town of Hilton Head Island is hoping to revitalize the Coligny area on its southern tip, with a fusion of tax dollars and land donations for a new building for USCB. The college would be on the hook for a large, private fundraising campaign to bring the plan to fruition. The building would offer extended-learning courses for residents and retirees. No plan has been finalized.
4. Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce in Hoagland's crosshairs: Local businessman Skip Hoagland and his allies are battling the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, questioning chamber salaries which they consider exorbitant and chamber practices, including selling advertising. Hoagland said he will file a lawsuit against the chamber in early January if it fails to turn over the detailed financial information he has requested. Chamber officials say their organization is not a public body and not required to disclose more information, although they've made much of their financial information available to him.
5. Real estate begins a modest recovery in Hilton Head area: Real estate prices and sales volume began to rebound in southern Beaufort County after the long recession. It's too soon for 2012 year-end figures, but Realtors and others say signs of recovery are becoming more evident. That's particularly true of high-end residential real estate as more buyers are purchasing lots and constructing custom homes in upscale communities. In 2011, home, condo and villa sales increased 16.1 percent to 2,486 in the Hilton Head area and by 21.7 percent to 963 in the Beaufort area compared to 2009, according to the South Carolina Realtors .
Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.
Deck still stacked against casino project, Nov. 24, 2012
Chamber threatened with lawsuit if it doesn't turn over data, Dec. 19, 2012
Sales of high-end homes, lots making a comeback, Dec. 10, 2012