[image-1] After sinking $33 million in taxpayer money in a settlement to acquire the old Naval hospital campus in 2017, Charleston County Council has sold the landmark 10-story building on the property to new buyers, but nobody will say for how much.
Charleston County Council voted on Thursday to approve the sale of the North Charleston building to Navy Hospital Partners LLC, a group that includes local developer William Cogswell, a state legislator from Charleston.
The vote also allows Navy Hospital Partners to build a new social services building nearby in addition to other components of the deal, but details on those portions of the agreement are not known.
Reached on Friday, Cogswell declined to disclose how much his group will pay for the building and County Council did not provide details about the price on Thursday. Shawn Smetana, a county spokesman, referred questions about the public property’s selling price to council Chairman Elliott Summey, who did not return phone calls by the time of publication. Smetana later informed the City Paper that the property’s selling price is not available at this time.
The Post and Courier reported the price to be somewhere between $10 and 12 million, but an exact number was not specified.
[content-1] During public comment at Thursday’s meeting, John Singletary, who has mounted two election challenges to North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey (Elliott’s father), voiced his concern that the hospital is not going to its best use.
“When we continually transfer property to private companies, when the value is not realized by the county or the city, it is a disservice to the public,” said Singletary.
“We’ve asked more than once that all the documents be put above board, on the table, and in this case, I don’t think that is happening. If there’s any studies that have been done by Davis and Young, or anybody else, then they should be put on top of the table because, like in North Charleston, county residents will end up losing the value in the property that their tax dollar has gone for.”
There has been plenty of debate over the old Naval hospital over the past decade. In 2012, the federal government sold the property to the City of North Charleston for $2 million, which turned around and sold the property to private developers that initially included Donald Trump, Jr. for $5 million in 2014. That group agreed to lease the hospital building back to the county, but declared bankruptcy and filed a lawsuit when the county backed out of the agreement, resulting in a $33 million settlement agreement paid by the county that also put the property back in public hands.
In February, Charleston County floated around the idea of paying a few million dollars more to demolish the hospital.
[content-2] The building, which is the tallest in North Charleston, will be refitted as apartments, according to Cogswell, who has also overseen extensive renovations of the Cigar Factory downtown and the Garco mill building a few miles away in Park Circle.
“The plan is to renovate the building using federal and state historic tax credits and the intended use would be approximately 305 residential apartment units,” he says.
Separate plans are in the works to build a new bus rapid transit system along Rivers Avenue connecting downtown Charleston and Summerville, a project that is expected to spur building along the busy commercial corridor.
“They’re not going to be subsidized apartments, but we are going to try to develop the project in a way that really caters to people who want to use public transportation and really focus on it being a true transit-oriented development.”