New development planned for old Naval Hospital

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- It's been a vacant eyesore in the skyline of North Charleston for years and now the old Naval Hospital building is set to get a new life.

The old Naval Hospital on Rivers Avenue is a 400,000-square-foot structure that was shut down after the closing of the Charleston Naval base in 1996.

At a press conference on Friday, Charleston County leaders and real estate developers will announce the specifics and plans for the Naval Hospital's re-development. Officials say the structure will undergo reconstruction in order to house several government agency offices and socially centered services. It will be known as the Chicora Life Center.

Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor, who will speak at the press conference Friday, said the announcement is a huge win for the local neighborhood and economy.

"I think the economic development impact in that area will be huge," Pryor said. "It is just a start. I think all the property and development that is coming will be huge for that area."

Pryor said the City of North Charleston sold the Naval Hospital property to the real estate group, Chicora Gardens Holdings LLC, earlier this year.

"When they bought the property, one of the stipulations was they have to have a grocery store in that area so you will see a grocery store coming to that area in the future," Pryor said.

He also said construction will be starting "ASAP." Charleston County Services is expected to move into the renovated building by Jan. 1, 2015.

"Better days are ahead for the folks in the south end," said Pryor. "The Naval Yard left and everything went out and now they will begin to see the benefit and the hard work in the area of Mayor Summey bringing back things in that area to make these things happen for folks in the south end of North Charleston."

By the end of 2014 the fences surrounding the old Navy Hospital in North Charleston will come down and new offices will open inside the Chicora Life Center.

"This gives activity back to an area that had died on us and we have always seen this block or Rivers Avenue, as sort of the center point of redevelopment for the entire Chicora area," said North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey.

A 25-year lease has been brokered between Charleston County and Chicora Garden Holdings LLC, the developers who purchased the old hospital from the City of North Charleston.

For now, the county has leased five offices spaces inside the new Chicora Life Center. The offices of vital records, community health, Charleston County Coroner are among those being relocated to the second and third floors of the old hospital.

The downtown Charleston county building is expected to be sold to the expanding Medical University of South Carolina campus.

"When you look at economic development, you will look at restaurants coming back in that area, other small businesses coming back in that area, the day cares will come back in that area," said Pryor.

The city sold the building to developers in January for five million. Pryor says those developers will cover the cost of remodeling the building up to three million.

The fate of the former Shipwatch Square is still not clear; developers have been given the opportunity to buy the property for $4 million by the end of September.

"We still have one major hurdle we're working on and that's the grocery store, and we're going to get it," said Summey.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control has already approved a permit for limited demolition inside the building. Construction is expected to begin in the next two weeks.