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Business park getting bigger: Defense giant to occupy part of new building

March 30, 2011

By John McDermott
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A sizable real estate project that has been on the back burner for a couple years is set to spring from the ground in short order near the gates of the Naval Weapons Station.

Driven in part by a government contracting business that needs a new home for some of its local workers, the $18 million addition to Remount Business Park in North Charleston is set to be completed this summer.

Remount Defense giant Science Applications International Corp. said it will occupy about 43,000 square feet of the planned 105,150-square-foot building going up near Remount Road and North Rhett Avenue.

Defense contractor SAIC will occupy part of an $18 million expansion to Remount Business Park in North Charleston. This is a rendering of the building.

SAIC will relocate about 240 of its local employees to the new space from an office on Leeds Avenue, said Jim Thigpen, the company's senior vice president and business unit general manager for the Charleston area.

The project is notable given the scarce funding and general lack of demand for big commercial real estate projects since the real estate downturn took hold a few years ago, said Roy Splansky, one of the developers.

He said financing a new building that's not entirely leased is challenging, to say the least.

"Most people would say it's not possible," Splansky said. "But it's possible here in North Charleston."

SAIC's commitment helped push the deal along, as did the location.

Remount Business Park has been targeting companies that do business with federal agencies on the nearby Weapons Station.

SAIC's main client is the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, or SPAWAR, which primarily develops communication technology for the armed forces from its East Coast headquarters on the base.

Remount Venture is made up of St. Louis-based Clayco Inc., Chicago-based Venture One Real Estate, and two local investors, David M. Kirby of First Commercial Partners LLC and Eugene W. Blanton of Landmark Enterprises Inc.

The group completed the first 200,000-square-foot structure at Remount Business Park about two years ago, and that space is now 100 percent leased to defense businesses. Major tenants include Scientific Research Corp., Barling Bay LLC and Stanley Inc.

Charleston County Council agreed in 2010 to a request by Remount Venture to fix the tax millage rate on its property for 20 years. Also, the developer could be reimbursed up to $3 million over 10 years to offset its infrastructure costs.

The incentives require that the project meet certain investment thresholds, and the office park must attract at least 600 jobs and support a total payroll of $30 million.

Virginia-based SAIC, which employs about 1,800 workers in the region, was in the market for new space because its building on Faber Place Drive changed hands for conversion into offices for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Thigpen said the relocation is "a wash" financially for the defense contractor based on the incentives it is receiving for moving out of its existing space early and the inducements it is getting for moving to its new offices.

Also, he said, SAIC should benefit from the more modern work environment and from being so close to SPAWAR.

"They're our bread-and-butter customer," Thigpen said. "Our mission is to keep them happy and keep winning their contracts."

Remount Business Park has one site left that can accommodate a 77,000-square-foot building. Construction could start later this year, the developer said.

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