Officials quiet on pending Buckwalter Place deals

Bluffton's development corporation continues to negotiate to buy property in Buckwalter Place that would be used to entice companies to open shop, with no completion date set, according to the corporation's director and chairman.

An agreement to buy 34 acres from Buckwalter Place's owner Tom Zinn is in place, as is a purchase price, according to Bluffton Public Development Corporation Chairman Roberts Vaux. Vaux had previously said the land would be purchased for $4 million, but declined to discuss further details of the agreement.

However, there is no timetable for the deal to close, as the public development corporation completes its due diligence, corporation director Marc Orlando said. That includes completing an American Land Title Association survey, which shows improvements and easements on the property to be purchased.

The corporation hopes to lure a company that would provide high-paying jobs, similar to current Buckwalter Place tenant CareCore National.

Last month, Vaux and other officials said the development corporation was in negotiations to bring an undisclosed company to Buckwalter Place. Vaux said he was optimistic the deal could be completed by June 30.

Orlando said any news of completed negotiations or other economic development would be released "as it occurs," Orlando said.

Vaux said negotiations with the unnamed company were progressing. Town and economic development officials have refused to provide details about the prospective company.

Before any land for the company can be purchased, Bluffton Town Council would have to review the deal and its funding, Orlando said, but a date for that review has not been set. The town has pledged $1 million to help the corporation buy the property. Beaufort County has pledged $1 million, and the Beaufort County School District up to $1.8 million.

Last month, officials with the development corporation said it should own the land because ownership would allow the town to control the kind of businesses that go there -- clean, high-tech companies in line with Buckwalter Place's original vision.

CareCore CEO John Arlotta said in an April letter to Mayor Lisa Sulka that the company supported the development corporation's endeavor and he looked forward to "the development of the commercial park in the vision in which it was contemplated."

CareCore senior vice president Mark Ciamarra said Thursday the company's stance had not changed.

As the public development corporation tries to bring high-tech companies to the area, smaller retail development is beginning along the park's outer edges.

Construction on an Ace Hardware store is expected to be completed by the fall, according to the store's owner, Robert Heuser. During discussions with the town about Ace's construction plan, other clues about possible Buckwalter Place development were mentioned, like a brewery near the hardware store.

Zinn's company intends to prepare lots next to Ace for development during the construction of the hardware store, but no specific plans have been announced. Zinn declined to comment on possible new developments in Buckwalter Place, saying his company has a policy not to talk about pending negotiations or development.

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