Monday, May 19, 2008

Jafza 101: Attorney sees 'exciting future' for area

By SHIRLEY UPTON, T&D CorrespondentMonday, May 19, 2008

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SANTEE -- What does the future hold for the once sleepy little town of Santee? Why does Jafza International, a subsidiary of Dubai World, plan to invest approximately $700 million to build a logistics, light manufacturing and distribution hub on 1,300 acres, within the context of a free trade zone, outside of the town limits of Santee?

The project is expected to attract about $1.2 billion in private investment, and the site will include public parks and baseball fields as well as nature trails. The number of jobs that will be generated is estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000, an unprecedented boost for the local economy.

How will the project change the character of the town and affect the daily life of its residents?

These are some of the questions being posed by residents of the town of Santee and those outside the town limits concerning the project and its impact on the area.

Ronald L. Nester Sr. of Nester & Jackson Attorneys-at-Law, who served as the attorney for Jim Roquemore’s sale of the land to Jafza, recently gave a presentation to the Santee Rotary Club which helped to clarify some of the details of the project. Santee Mayor Silas Seabrooks requested that Nester repeat the presentation at the April Santee Town Council meeting so that it could be shared with Santee’s residents.

Nester addressed the enormity of the development budget of $700 million, comparing it to the approximate $100 million worth of real estate at the Santee Cooper Resort. He explained the company’s decision to locate in Santee.

“Due to the fact that the northern ports in New York, New Jersey and Virginia are maxed out and under union control, Jafza explored the idea of bringing their operation further south, and appreciated the enormous potential of what Santee had to offer,” he said.

Nester focused on the many natural and existing attributes of Santee. Among them:

• 120,000-acre Lake Marion, the largest lake in the state.

• 3,000-acre Santee State Park, which is a recreational treasure.

• An excellent Fire Service District.

• 1,200 hotel rooms and 25 restaurants.

• Three golf courses.

• Approximately 40 acres surrounding the town center available for future development.

• Seven acres purchased by the town, suitable for a new public safety facility, visitor’s center and additional development.

• The Center Pointe 55-acre development, which will connect downtown to Santee National Golf Course.

• A unified, supportive legislative delegation.

Santee is already undergoing new development with Wyndham Hotel’s (through its subsidiary Fairfield Resorts) commitment to invest tens of millions of dollars to purchase Ballards III condos on Bass Drive. It is expected that this venture will also attract other resort developers and further enhance Santee’s reputation as a vacation destination, Nester said.

The Santee Conference Center, under construction, is also expected to enhance the town’s development, he said. The multi-purpose facility will seat 650 people for dinner, and large rooms can be partitioned to accommodate smaller groups.

“This $5 million investment will attract commercial development up and down Bass Drive as well as on Highways 6 and 301,” Nester said. He added that although the conference center parcel comprises 25 acres, only seven acres are needed for the center itself.

He said three components of the infrastructure must be in place for Jafza’s needs: water, sewer and transportation.

Nester summarized Santee’s existing and planned infrastructure such as the Lake Marion Regional Water System, which will provide water for residential and industrial development, and the 1.5 million-gallon Regional Sewer System facility planned for Rt. 176 and Hwy. 301, which is designed to serve the sewer needs of eastern Orangeburg County.

“The plan is to connect sewer systems of Bowman, St. George, Harleyville, Santee, Holly Hill, etc., to provide capacity where it is needed,” Nester said. “Orangeburg County has committed to completion of the sewer project in time to serve the needs of Jafza. The facility will serve Jafza and everything in between and will be operational when Jafza is ready to open.”

Access to the Jafza site will be made possible by the construction of Interstate 95 Exit 97. Nester reported that the S.C. Department of Transportation is studying three or four different designs. He said $20 million for the project is already in place, and an additional $45 million will be required.

Construction of the development is projected to begin in late 2008 or early 2009, and some elements will be operational in late 2009. B.P. Barber of Columbia has been awarded the engineering contract for the project.

The need for additional housing both in the town of Santee and its outskirts due to commercial development was addressed by Nester. “There will be renewed life in the Blackwater and Lakewilde Plantation subdivision developments,” he said.

Nester referred to other development in and around the Global Logistics Triangle, including the 1,200-acre World Trade Center development near Bowman and Rep. James Clyburn’s Transportation Studies Department at South Carolina State University.

He also mentioned The Beach Company’s purchase of a 4,000-acre tract on the other side of the lake, along I-95 between Exit 102 and 108, for approximately $9 million and said these developers of the Isle of Palms and Kiawah Island plan to build “a new city.”

The North Shore Condo Resort, on the site of the old Holiday Inn Campground and Polly’s Landing, is also under development, consisting of approximately 100 luxury condos plus detached single-family residential home sites. “This development has an estimated built-out cost in excess of $50 million,” Nester said.

He said he foresees increased prosperity for all residents in the area and the proliferation of minority businesses. The availability of well-paying jobs will generate the need for desirable goods and services, Nester believes.

“When you put all of this together, you begin to see a very exciting future for the town of Santee,” he said. “If you put a map up on the wall and draw a big circle around Santee, people will say, ‘This is where we need to be.’”

T&D Correspondent Shirley Upton can be reached by e-mail at Discuss this and other stories at

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