A deal expected to drive investment in a small northern Beaufort County town and surrounding areas for years to come closed Wednesday.
The Port of Port Royal has sold to private developers for $9 million, an attorney for the buyers said Wednesday. The sale comes 13 years after the little-used former South Carolina marine terminal was closed by then Gov. Mark Sanford and ordered to be sold.
Grey Ghost Properties, which includes Beaufort boat dealer Chris Butler, closed the deal with the Department of Administration on Wednesday. All that was left early Wednesday afternoon was to record the deed at the courthouse, attorney David Tedder said.
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“I think you’re going to see a big injection into the economy,” Butler said. “It’s not going to be something that literally you’ll see tomorrow or the next day, but I think in as little as a couple of years, you’ll see a big increase in the interest in Port Royal.”
The developers hope to create a mix of hundreds of homes, restaurants, a hotel and a marina capable of hosting large yachts. A waterfront promenade and extension of the Spanish Moss Trail are also on the table.
Guidelines developed with input from town residents also call for open park space.
Butler plans to open an existing boat storage building on the property for business in January, leasing slips to people who can have their boats dropped in the water and hauled out with each use. A picnic area will be set up nearby, and the developers plan a celebration for sometime next month.
The S.C. Ports Authority built the terminal in Port Royal in 1959, when the town’s population was less than 800 people. The port served various industrial uses throughout the years, but activity slowed to a crawl before town officials advocated for its closure.
The 317 acres, which includes 51 acres of high ground to be developed, has been the subject of multiple failed deals since the Ports Authority listed the property for sale. Control of the sale was turned over to the state’s General Services division in 2015, and a new appraisal valued the property at a fraction of its previous listing prices.
Development of the property and the associated property taxes and new business fees could eventually be a boon for Port Royal’s tiny budget.
“I think it’s going to be an economic boost for Beaufort County as a whole,” longtime Port Royal Town Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray Heyward said. “The property is being put back on the tax rolls — it’s a win-win for the town and for the county.”