Bigger Ports and Ships Lead to Bigger Buildings in Charleston

Commercial Development and Construction in Charleston, SC

The Charleston market is supporting the development of larger buildings due to increased activity from larger tenants, construction of a larger port, the expansion of the Panama Canal, and the introduction of post-Panamax ships traveling through the Charleston harbor. In the last five years there have been 16 buildings constructed over 100,000 square feet, with ten of these buildings completed in 2015.  In 2007, the majority of speculative construction was between 100,000 to 350,000 square feet. Now developers are delivering buildings between 150,000 square feet to 350,000 square feet, with room to expand by two to three times its size.

  • The Keith Corporation’s building at the Charleston Trade Center is currently under construction and will be 307,350 square feet, with future potential to expand to up to 923,000 square feet.
  • Another example of larger buildings under construction in the Charleston market is the new speculative building at OMNI Industrial Complex, which will be 587,720 square feet when completed.
  • Developers are planning to building fifteen industrial buildings between 169,000 and 1.3 million square feet at three industrial parks along the Interstate 26 corridor between US Highway 17 and Jedburg Road. Two buildings are planned to be delivered in 2017 at 520,000 square feet and 561,600 square feet in the Rockefeller Group-MeadWestvaco Foreign Trade Zone industrial park.
  • The Charleston Trade Center plans to construct an additional seven buildings ranging from 200,000 square feet and 1.3 million square feet, and the OMNI Industrial Complex has five buildings planned for construction totaling 2.6 million square feet. This will add an additional 7.3 million square feet to the Charleston market along the Interstate 26 corridor, between US Highway 17 and Jedburg Road.

The Panama Canal Expansion

Post Panamax Era

The Panama Canal Expansion is now open and will allow larger and heavier post-Panamax ships to travel to places like the Port of Charleston, and give the local market increasing access to global markets. The Port of Charleston has the deepest harbor on the East Coast, but currently only accepts these larger ships during high tide. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act in September 2016, to provide the funding to allow the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project to move forward and enable the port to increase accessibility to the longer, wider and heavier ships 24 hours a day.

Plans are also in the works by the South Carolina Ports Authority to build an Inland Port in Dillon, 160 miles north of the Port of Charleston, off Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border. The port is expected to begin construction in 2017, and will continue to spur economic growth in South Carolina and give the state a competitive edge in the post Panamax era.

Source: South Carolina Research & Forecast Report, Q3 2016, “Bigger Ports. Bigger Ships. Bigger Buildings.” Colliers International

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