It's been years since the Port of Port Royal was cared for, and it shows in the 6-foot-tall trees and bushes growing between the abandoned rails that hug the waterfront.
That will change over the next few weeks as crews from The Greenery landscaping company hack down plants, clear scrub and pull down vines overtaking fences and buildings.
It's part of a freshening up by the property's owner, the S.C. State Ports Authority, after the third attempt by a developer to buy the land fell through last month.
"It's all part of the maintenance of the port property as we market it to sell," spokeswoman Allison Skipper said.
Previous work at the port was limited to occasional mowing, she said.
The authority will pay The Greenery $5,200 to make the 52 acres of buildable land more attractive to prospective buyers, Skipper said.
The land also is being reappraised. The latest contract was for $17 million, and the property is being marketed by real estate firm NAI Avant at $20.4 million.
The contract includes bush-hogging, weed-whacking, mowing and spraying herbicide along the rail bed, fences, inside the gates at the end of Paris Avenue, alongside buildings and in open areas. Jerry Ashmore of The Greenery said it will take a couple of weeks, but when it's finished, it will give people a clear view of the water.
Town Councilman Joe Lee was excited to see work begin Monday and said he could hardly remember when the property was not overgrown.
"If you go over there, the views are amazing, when you get out to the water," he said.
Even though the work isn't finished, there's a sense of excitement that something is happening to a parcel that officials and residents have long said needs to be developed to help the town economically.
"Just the feeling of something going on down there, it makes a difference," Lee said.
The port has been closed since 2004, when the Ports Authority deemed it too expensive to operate. Since 2006, three different developers have tried to buy it for residential and commercial building.
The most recent attempt, by the Port Royal Redevelopment Group, fell through in September after four extensions during which the group tried to secure financing. Numbers provided by the Ports Authority and local officials indicate the development group paid several hundred thousand dollars in nonrefundable deposits for the purchase and extensions.
The town, however, has asked for and is receiving money from the Ports Authority to cover its legal, engineering and planning costs incurred in the past year while preparing for the sale.
That includes $52,000 in legal fees the town and the Beaufort County School District needed to create a special tax district, the proceeds of which would be used to improve roads, sewers and parks connected to the port, according to town manager Van Willis. The authority also will pay for $9,000 in engineering and planning costs for the town.
- For the third time since 2006, plans to purchase Port of Port Royal property fall through, Sept. 12, 2012
- Port Royal seeks greater role in port property sale plans, Aug. 11, 2012
- Ports Authority seeks new buyers for Port of Port Royal property, Aug. 8, 2012