Friday, November 14, 2008

Santee, Lake Marion ready to boom


Two new developments planned for Santee and Lake Marion would add thousands of homes and businesses to this rural slice of South Carolina that suffers from high unemployment.

The developments aim to capitalize on the region’s growing popularity among retirees who want to live near golf courses and lakes. And, the developers will benefit from a massive industrial hub planned for the southeast tip of Orangeburg County.

Cantey Bay Plantation would transform 3,800 acres into a residential community with thousands of homes and commercial development along Lake Marion and I-95 in Clarendon County.

“It’s really a new town we’re proposing to construct here,” said Kevin O’Neill, vice president of Beach Development of Charleston, the project developer.

And, the Santee Town Center project would develop 75 acres in Santee with more than 400 homes. The town, population 750, has been little more than a crossroads without a “Main Street.”

“With all of this happening around Santee the time has come to build a downtown,” said Ron Nester, a Santee real estate lawyer who is working with a local group of investors.

Both projects were in the works before Economic Zones World — formerly called Jafza International — launched its plan to build an industrial park and logistics hub on 1,300 acres near Santee.

However, the developers spoke about the plans Wednesday during an Orangeburg County summit where more than 500 people gathered to talk about growth in the area.

“Jafza is coming, and it’s not happening in a vacuum,” said Nester, who is working for Santee Ventures LLC, which is developing the downtown Santee project.

The two planned communities and the industrial development are within a few miles of each other along I-95.

As oceanfront property skyrockets, retirees are attracted to this inland area that is home to three golf courses, Lake Marion, Santee State Park and Santee National Wildlife Refuge.

“We feel like the rest of the world is finally discovering our Garden of Eden,” said Julie Rickenbaker of ERA Wilder Realty in Santee.

Like the plans for the industrial hub, both developments will be years in the making.

The Santee Town Center developers plan to build 448 houses, condos and duplexes as well as retail and office space on 75 acres, Nester said. The land borders U.S. 301, S.C. 6 and Santee National Golf Club.

The estimated $180 million project should get under way next year, Nester said.

“The goal of this group was to control the growth to make sure it will work well with local people and the people who will move in over the next 10 to 20 years,” he said.

At Cantey Bay Plantation, plans call for 7,500 to 15,000 homes and 300,000 square feet of office and retail space. The land sits along 1.2 miles of Lake Marion waterfront and straddles both sides of I-95.

The company hopes to develop an industrial and business park on the east side of I-95, O’Neill said.

Development plans also call for two new canals to be dug out of Lake Marion into the property. That would increase the waterfront acreage, O’Neill said.

The Beach Co., the parent company of Beach Development, must get permission from power company Santee Cooper, which owns the lake, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While retirees will be Cantey Bay’s target market, the area may attract people who work at the Economic Zones World development, O’Neill said.

“I’m not sure it helps us in a significant way,” he said of the large industrial hub. “But it certainly can’t hurt us.’

The Beach Co. is working through planning and permits for its project. Construction will not begin until late 2010.

It will take 25 to 30 years for the development to be finished.

“What has been a rural area will become much more suburban and virtually a new town,” he said.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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