Monday, June 22, 2009

MeadWestvaco, Rockefeller Group break ground on logistics park

By Molly Parker
Published June 19, 2009

Donning suits and hard hats, politicians joined officials from MeadWestvaco Crop. and Rockefeller Group on Thursday afternoon as the two companies broke ground on their joint-venture logistics park near Jedburg.

Initial work will begin on road improvements to a one-mile stretch of Drop Off Drive in an effort to make that frontage road ready to handle truck traffic. The groundbreaking also kicks off work on the site pad for the first of four planned buildings. The goal is to create a plot where a building could be erected in a matter of months if a tenant is secured.

MeadWestvaco has purchased all rights to this photograph. 6/18/2009 “It really — especially today, in today’s financial environment, it takes collaboration to pull off a project like this,” Ken Seeger, president of MeadWestvaco’s Community Development and Land Management Group, said after the groundbreaking during a ceremony at High Cotton in downtown Charleston.

MeadWestvaco originally planned to sell its land there to Rockefeller, but the two groups announced in May that they were partnering on the development. Through its land division, headquartered in Summerville, Virginia-based MeadWestvaco has shifted its real estate focus in recent years and has now entered the development business.

This deal marks the first of its development efforts to get under way.

Ed Guiltinan, vice president and regional director of Rockefeller Group, called the groundbreaking a “significant step” after three years of planning and negotiations with other area developers and Berkeley County officials.

The road work will be done by Banks Construction, the site work by Landmark Construction. Colliers Kennan is handling the leasing for the project.

MeadWestvaco and Rockefeller Group plan to eventually build 2.7 million square feet of warehousing and light industrial space on a 400-acre plot.

Dallas-based Hillwood Development Co. and Trammell Crow Co. also are planning commerce parks in Jedburg, in addition to the facilities already operating there that are owned or have been sold off by Spartanburg-based Johnson Development Associates. In total, the area — considered a prime location because of its proximity to the Port of Charleston and Interstates 26 and 95 — is expected to eventually house a combined 17 million square feet of industrial space.

Hillwood, Trammell Crow and Rockefeller had planned to have speculative buildings out of the ground by now, but the economy has slowed those plans. Guiltinan said that several companies are eyeing the property, though competition for new business is stiff.

Berkeley County Supervisor Dan Davis called the deal “very exciting,” especially considering the amount of work it took to iron out the details. Those details include a deal in which the four developers, in conjunction with the county and state, agreed to help pay for road improvements.

“This is going to help us out of the doldrums,” Davis said.

In the short term, the road project and site preparation work are expected to create about 45 jobs. But state and local leaders say the buildout of all four industrial parks could create thousands of jobs in the long run.

“We’re going to try to load up the port again,” said Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek. “We’re going to try to grow business, and we’re going to try to grow employment.”

Reach Molly Parker at 843-849-3144.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Beach Co. outlines plans

SUMMERTON — After waiting nearly five years since purchasing more than 3,880 acres outside downtown Summerton, the Beach Co. of Charleston believes it will finally begin to break ground on development projects in the area by next spring.

Kevin O'Neill, vice president of development for the company, spoke with Summerton Town Council on May 26 to give an update about the project.

"(Summerton Town Administrator) Bruce (Behrens) suggested it might be a good idea for me to come," O'Neill said. "As he may have told you, we're working diligently on producing the legal agreements necessary to guide the process."

O'Neill said the legal agreements were part of three separate sets of documents the company would rely on to guide the project, which will bring 7,000 new homes to the area during a 15-year period once construction begins.

"The second document that's equally important is the Planned-development District Plan," O'Neill said. "It's not a legal document, but it will likely be helpful to town council and everyone else because it will provide an executive summary of the project as well as pictures of what we're planning to do. This document will also tell the story and history of the land, talk about the concept of the development and the vision for site development."

The third document is an economic impact study. While O'Neill would not talk about specific numbers, he did say that the study showed favorable results for Summerton and Clarendon County at-large.

"We're probably to (within a week of being able to submit this document)," O'Neill said. "One of the things we're working on right now is how to translate it into benefits for the town. From what we've seen, the data indicates that of the benefit they see, 80 percent of the impact to the county is felt or is achieved by the closest and local municipality. Having said that, I really don't want to release (hard) numbers just yet, but I can tell you that the impact to the town, county and state are very significant and very positive."

Picture Robert Baker / LakeSide
Bonnie Agnew, store and boat landing manager for Jack's Creek Marina, works in the kitchen at the landing.

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The company purchased the land for $10.3 million in 2005. They named it Cantey Bay in 2007 after Teige Cantey, who immigrated from Barbados to Charleston in the 1600s. In September 2008, the company purchased Jack's Creek Marina, proposing to provide a new waterfront area with new docks, vacation cottages or "hospitality units," and a new restaurant.

Some of those projects are already under way.

"We have the kitchen up and running now," said Bonnie Agnew, store and boat landing manager for Jack's Creek Marina. "They haven't started any big construction yet, but they have repaired the docks and we have an electric license now."

Agnew said the company had also cleaned the marina.

"They came in and cleared up some of the abandoned boats and campers," she said. "I think people finally know that we want the community to come out here and have a nice time."

Agnew said that she believes residents were wary of the Beach Co. initially because they thought the business might make the landing at Jack's Creek private.

"I think people were scared of that," she said. "But now, I think they can see that hasn't happened and people have been coming out here. The restaurant's been steady, and they hope to have some of the (cottages) up by next spring. That's what they're telling me."

O'Neill told council that he would probably come back to speak to them in late August or early September.

Summerton resident Patty Stewart asked O'Neill about the probability of the new development taking away from downtown Summerton.

"I get asked all the time, 'Why do you want to annex into Summerton?'" O'Neill answered. "We like a lot of things we see happening in Summerton. You have great things going on on Main Street and this is a unique shopping area. Together, I think with us being a part of the town of Summerton, I think that we can encourage and promote (the) spending of money in downtown Summerton so that we can be a part of the greater community. I think we can achieve a lot more by annexing in. And I think we can help the town continue to thrive."

Picture Robert Baker / LakeSide

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When completed, the development will feature 5,300 single-family homes and 1,600 multi-family homes, according to company partner Scott Parker. Using Charleston as an example when he spoke to Summerton residents a year ago, Parker said houses would be built with their front yards rather than their back yards facing the lake. Streets will run along the lake's edge and parks will be along the shore.

"And, of course, throughout all of this, we are concerned with protecting and enhancing our natural resources," he said, adding that of the 3,880 acres, only about 48 percent of it will be developed space. "Fifty-two percent of that won't be touched by development with buildings, although it might be touched by enhancing it with a park.

"I've made it publicly known that regardless of where plantation is, this will always be Downtown Summerton. We may be talking 10 years out. In the immediate future, I think we have the consensus that government center stays where it is. Whether this particular lot or across the street. We don't have any plans to move town hall to Cantey Bay."

Contact Staff Writer Robert Baker at or (803) 435-8511.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Despite economic downturn, Panama Canal project continues

Chris Kraul
Special to the Los Angeles Times
Sunday, June 14, 2009

— The economic downturn has stalled big construction projects across the globe, but in Panama, smoke-belching steam shovels and dredges work around the clock on what people here call simply "la ampliacion," or the expansion.

As soon as this month, officials will award the principal contract for the $5.25-billion expansion of the landmark Panama Canal, a project that will probably alter global shipping patterns and cement this Central American nation’s place as a center of global logistics.

“This is a financial crisis, and there has been a decline in ship traffic, but we are very much on time and on target,” said Panama Canal Authority chief executive Alberto Aleman, addressing rumors that the global recession could cause the project to miss its 2014 scheduled completion date.

The authority is on the verge of choosing among three international consortiums, including one led by San Francisco based Bechtel, to build two sets of locks to accommodate massive container cargo ships. Dubbed post-Panamax, the super-sized vessels are capable of carrying three times more cargo than ships now transiting the canal.

The construction of the two new locks -- one at the waterway’s Caribbean entrance, the other on the Pacific Ocean -- will cost $3 billion or more, take five years to complete and require an army of 5,000 construction workers.

The winning consortium is expected to use the contract’s marquee value as one of the world’s highest-profile construction endeavors as a calling card to bid on other major infrastructure projects around the globe. The canal authority maintains the expanded canal will make Panama an even more important transit hub by attracting a bigger share of Asian container freight destined for the eastern U.S. Currently, 70 percent of that cargo is offloaded at Los Angeles, Long Beach, Calif., and other North American ports and moved by rail or truck across the country.

“There will be a migration of freight to the canal, the implication being that Los Angeles and Long Beach ports will take the hit,” said Mark Page of Drewry Shipping Consultants in London. “The U.S. rail lines will also suffer.”

Despite the recession gripping the U.S. and other destination countries, the 9 percent drop in global container traffic forecast for 2009, and a financing scheme that assumes rising traffic and tolls, Panama’s Aleman said the expansion project is moving forward and will not be deterred.

“We factored in a margin of error and we are ahead of the projections,” he said.

A new four-mile access channel on the Pacific side is 85 percent excavated and dredging is under way. The new segment will be much deeper than the existing canal, allowing passage of quarter-mile long ships carrying 14,000 cargo containers, compared with maximum 4,500-container ships that now transit the 50-mile waterway.

The winning contractor will be awarded a $50 million bonus if the expansion is done by 2014, the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal’s completion by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The canal expansion project is already having a ripple effect in Southern California. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports each have launched expansion and streamlining projects valued at hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their competitiveness with an expanded Panama Canal.

“We’re using the down time to improve our infrastructure,” said Los Angeles port marketing director Mike DiBernardo, referring to his facility’s 16 percent decline in container traffic over the first three months of 2009. The port’s plans include the expansion of three terminals and improved wharf access for rail lines.

Long Beach port spokesman Art Wong said his facility has put in motion a 10-year plan to invest $1.6 billion in upgrades of piers and rail access, a response he attributes partly to the tougher competition the port expects from the Panama Canal, as well as from port projects in Mexico and Canada.

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But global shipping companies are wary of the rising tolls the canal is charging to fund the expansion. Michael Kristiansen, Latin America operations chief for Danish shipping giant Maersk, said the expanded canal will divert some U.S. freight away from U.S. West Coast ports, but how much will depend on transit times and the impact of the canal’s toll hikes.

Another factor is whether U.S. ports on the Eastern Seaboard make changes to accommodate the biggest ships. Ports including Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and Miami are currently too shallow, and the Bayonne Bridge currently blocks their access to the Newark, N.J., port, the most important in the New York area.

As a defensive measure, Maersk and other shipping lines serving the Asia to eastern U.S. routes are taking a close look at westward routes through the Suez Canal. Although Maersk is not yet diverting traffic away from Panama, it plans to open a Suez route for post-Panamax ships in the near future, Kristiansen said.

In addition to the Bechtel-led consortium that includes Japanese partners Taisei Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp., two other groups also placed bids in March for the contract. They include teams led by Grupo ACS of Spain and another led by Sacyr Vallehermoso of Spain and Impregilo of Italy.

The locks will employ a “water savings basin” that will allow recycling of 60 percent of the water used to fill them. Canals in Germany currently use the system, said Jorge de la Guardia, the canal authority’s locks project manager.

He said the project so far has not experienced serious set-backs such as those faced by original canal builders. Those included malaria and yellow fever that killed thousands and the difficulties of digging through highly unstable “cockroach shale,” which kept sliding into the excavations.

Still, rumors that the canal project might face delays gained momentum when the authority extended the deadline for proposals to March from December and when a fourth bidder, a French-Brazilian consortium, dropped out of the bidding.

“You have to look at the long term,” Aleman, of the canal authority, said. “Yes we’re in a financial crisis but there have been others in the past. And Panama still has the best route for Asian traffic.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Economic Zones World’s Gazeley wins huge admiration in UK for its Inventive Sustainable Initiative

Gazeley, an Economic Zones World subsidiary and global provider of sustainable logistics space, announced that its latest green initiative, an Elizabethan Perfume Garden, created using modern day cutting-edge sustainability has won two prestigious awards at the recently held Chelsea Flower Show in the UK.

The sustainable project was built in collaboration with UK based architect Laurie Chetwood and landscape designer Patrick Collins, leading experts from P & G Prestige Products and Gazeley’s long-standing construction partners.

Combining inventive architectural and sensory elements, the garden project has been awarded the Gold Award and the Most Creative Award for its innovative concept, environmentally sound design and effective use of progressive green technology. The Most Creative Award is a discretionary prize, presented only when the judges feel that the design of a garden has set new standards of imagination and innovation.

Salma Hareb, CEO of Economic Zones World said: “Gazeley’s new initiative breaks new ground in sustainable architecture. The garden project is not only an enchanting aesthetic experience but also a landmark eco-friendly undertaking that will inspire similar developments in the future. Sustainability is key to operational efficiency and corporations worldwide have now made eco-initiatives a central part of their business strategy. As a company committed to sustainable developments, Economic Zones World, through this project, reiterates its commitment to keep providing innovative solutions for our global clients and the communities we serve.”

Gazeley’s pioneering sustainable technologies and an original recipe for rosewater infused perfume created by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th Century were the inspiration for the garden. The central perfumery incorporates a sculptural wind turbine to power the lighting and irrigation of the garden. It is fed from this central feature with water and electricity from the borehole/ rainwater harvesting, photovoltaic panels and the wind turbine. The garden wall is cedar and incorporates ecological features such as insect ‘hotels’ as well as wet and dry habitats. It is lit at night using the included national resources in the form of side emitting fibre optics.

Jonathan Fenton-Jones, Director of Sustainability and Global Procurement at Gazeley said, “Gazeley is proud to be supporting the perfume garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. It is essential the people understand the importance of how sustainable processes and technologies can easily be applied to modern day developments.

“Combining modern day construction and sustainability has been central to Gazeley’s business strategy since 2001. Gazeley works with an array of experts that form the international sustainable virtual team to combine leading-edge materials, technologies and construction processes to create the most environmentally advanced logistics spaces in the world.”

The garden is sponsored by Gazeley, Chetwoods, P&G Prestige Products, as well as co-sponsors Kingspan, Kelly Taylor, Simons Group, Capita Symonds Structures, Atlas Ward and SJ Berwin.