Beaufort News

Port Royal hopes to get The Shed a new lease on life

The town of Port Royal wants to bring The Shed on Parris Avenue back to life.
The town of Port Royal wants to bring The Shed on Parris Avenue back to life. BOB SOFALY/ The Beaufort Gazette

The town of Port Royal could bring new life to The Shed, a bank-owned building in the town's historic village, but two offers to purchase the property have been rejected by the seller.

The spacious property at 809 Paris Ave., once home to a performing arts center, has enormous potential to revitalize the economy of the surrounding area, town manager Van Willis said.

Lowcountry National Bank foreclosed on the property and took ownership in early 2009, according to Tripp Presnell, the bank's vice president for commercial lending.

The land holds two buildings totaling about 13,000 square feet, the larger one between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet, Presnell said. The bank has received about five offers for the pair, listed at $625,000, Presnell said.

Two offers came from the town, Willis said, and it plans to continue negotiations.

"We're still interested in the building, but we've got to try to come to terms with the bank on what they think is an acceptable price," Willis said.

The Shed, which also has been a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, features a "very convertible" open floor plan and large stage, Willis said.

He estimated the main building could hold between 200 and 300 people.

"There are a number of nonprofits that need space approximately that size," Willis said. "It could serve as a destination that would draw people down Paris Avenue."

The buildings would need about $50,000 to $75,000 worth of renovations, including new insulation, fresh paint, and bathroom and air conditioning repairs, Willis said.

Officials envision it as a community center featuring a visitors' welcome area and flexible space that could host artists, productions and other events, Willis said.

The town might also install a certified kitchen, where farmers could prepare food before Port Royal's weekly farmers markets. Cleaning up the outside and building a deck overlooking the water also are possibilities, Willis said.

Mayor Sam Murray believes the buildings could provide the historic-village area a critical and timely economic boost, he said.

Many, including Murray, agree that in the near term, the town must look beyond the shuttered Port of Port Royal for economic revitalization. The 51-acre, state-owned site along Battery Creek was ordered closed and sold in 2004 and has struggled to find a buyer.

"We're just going to have to try to do some things on our own," Murray said. "The price just has to be right."

Nancy Harris Vista, a Port Royal business owner and chairwoman of the town's Old Village Association -- a group that promotes business in the historic downtown and hosts festivals and events -- agreed the buildings have great potential and could house everything from lectures and performances to farmers markets, community classes and other activities.

The indoor space also could be an alternate location for Port Royal's annual Street Music on Paris Avenue concert series during inclement weather, Vista said.

"It's already set up with loading docks and a big open space," Vista said. "It seems like it would be a win-win."