A popular local seafood restaurant plans to return to Port Royal if a long-awaited real estate deal finally succeeds.
Dockside owner Tom Oliva wants to buy and renovate his restaurant’s old building on 11th Street when the state-owned port property is sold to private developers. The seafood eatery adjacent to the shrimp docks on Battery Creek closed in 2015 after a fire at the town’s seafood market next door.
“I would love to reopen and make it the gold mine it used to be,” Oliva told Town Council members Wednesday.
Oliva is encouraging town officials to work with developers and move a deal forward for the sale of the 317-acre property ahead of the August closing date targeted by the S.C. Department of Administration, which controls the sale. Developers have asked for changes to longstanding development and zoning agreements requiring the Town Council’s approval.
The potential buyers, under the corporation Grey Ghost Properties, include Beaufort boat dealer Chris Butler.
Among their plans are to bring back Dockside to generate traffic in Port Royal. That plan also includes keeping and operating a large boat storage building slated for demolition under the current development agreement.
Boat storage is needed in Beaufort County and could create a public area where people can have lunch and watch a forklift go back and forth dropping boats in the water, Butler said.
“That’s a focal point to get people down to the water,” he said.
A July 2015 fire drove away Oliva and Dockside after destroying the town’s seafood market and leaving the adjacent restaurant with some smoke and water damage. After sitting for two years, the building will need extensive work.
A month-to-month lease with the S.C. Ports Authority kept him from investing money in the building, Oliva said. But now he plans to return as the property owner.
“I’d like to see it happen,” said Oliva, who has continued to operate his Dockside location on Lady’s Island. “I’ve been dealing with this now for 10 years. It’s been holding me back for a long time.”
Town officials have discussed the possibility of using some of the $1.8 million in insurance money from the market fire to help restore Dockside.
The town wants the money to rebuild the market and seafood processing facility and to reimburse the town for the cost of replacing equipment and setting up what was expected to be a makeshift facility in a nearby building.
What’s left can be used for public projects like roads, parking and a planned waterfront promenade, town manager Van Willis said. The proceeds could serve to offset the lower than expected windfall from a special tax district set up to pay for such projects when the port property sells.
The expected money generated by the tax increment financing district was based on the property selling for $20 million. The deal is now for less than half that amount, though the exact price has been kept secret.
The buyers have proposed the town remain in its current building and that the insurance proceeds be used toward the property deal and required public projects.
“That is something that has to be worked out,” Willis said.
A public meeting is scheduled July 19 for council members to hear residents’ thoughts on proposed changes to the port property’s development agreement, including whether a large boat storage building should stay, a proposed land swap deal with the buyers and town and how the insurance money should be used.
“Whoever wants to have a voice can come have a voice,” Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray-Heyward said.
Attention, Port Royal residents
Town officials want to hear from residents about proposed changes to development and zoning agreements requested by the potential Port of Port Royal buyers. A public meeting is scheduled at Port Royal Town Hall at 6 p.m. on July 19. After public input, Town Council will consider the first of two required votes on the changes to the documents.