Port Royal residents and visitors could eventually take a water taxi to Beaufort or Hilton Head, retire to a waterfront condo, sample a beer flight from a local microbrewery and plop their boat in the water without lifting a finger.
That’s the vision of those working to close the transformational deal this week, in which the state would finally hand over its decommissioned marine terminal for private development along Battery Creek. The parties will wait a little longer to see it through.
The scheduled closing date came and went Tuesday. The buyers had told the state their ability to close was affected by Hurricane Irma thrashing Florida last week.
The prospective buyers now hope to close Wednesday, said Chris Butler, owner of Butler Marine and part of the group Grey Ghost Properties with a contract on the property.
The developers were awarded the contract over two other bidders earlier this year. The property was valued last year at $6.95 million, a fraction of what it had been listed during the past 13 years the port has been closed.
The property includes 51 acres of high ground that can be built upon, 317 acres total.
Initial plans are to dust off and use a drystack boat storage building and create picnic seating and possible street food vendors to draw people. Butler is already accepting reservations for the storage slips, which he expects could be ready by January. He also will offer boat sales at the site.
Next up could be the renovation and reopening of Dockside restaurant, once one of Port Royal’s biggest businesses before smoke and water damage drove away owner Tom Oliva to focus on his Lady’s Island location. The building has since suffered more damage from Hurricane Irma and will need repair, said real estate broker Whit Suber, who is working with the buyers.
Along with Dockside should quickly come another new restaurant, Suber said. And in the same area the town plans to reopen its seafood market destroyed by a fire.
“You’re going to have something people can go and see and touch and enjoy at a really fast pace,” Suber said. “... That section of the development is I think the section the public can be most excited, that’s where they’ll be able to enjoy early.”
A 225-slip marina is planned to accommodate boaters on day trips and for longer stays. The deep waters near the mouth of Port Royal Sound will be able to welcome boats up to 150 feet, Suber said.
Roads, sewer and drainage will be needed. The path for the Spanish Moss Trail to extend into Port Royal’s Old Village will be plotted.
Other plans aren’t as concrete and are likely years away. Longstanding development guidelines call for a mix of uses and open space and will dictate in part how the property eventually looks.
A hotel is planned, though not immediately. Developers are wooing a Columbia microbrewery. Suber sees a market for waterfront apartments and condominiums.
There is enough interest for numerous restaurants if that’s the direction the developers choose, Suber said. He is working to bring Technical College of the Lowcountry’s culinary school to the site near the town’s picturesque shrimp docks.
“At the end of the day, we know we have a destination site,” Suber said. “When people go to a destination, what do they want? They want food and drink and entertainment.”