CAYCE, SC — Dirt is being moved on both sides of Interstate 77 at Cayce’s 12th Street Extension.
SCANA Corp., which owns the 260 acres surrounding the interchange, says it has a letter of intent that is “very close to inspiring a deal,” and involves a decent amount of acreage at its budding Otarre Pointe development.
The company said it could not be more specific about the potential sale or the client at this time, but said it also is conferring with multiple people about other Otarre Pointe sites.
“Maybe it’s the economy starting to go; maybe it’s the fact that (Otarre is) taking more definition, but our inquiries are going up and the quality of the inquiries has gone up,” said Richard Morton, real estate and facilities general manager for SCANA subsidiary, SCE&G.
SCANA, which moved its corporate headquarters to Otarre Pointe in 2009, wants to finish development of the massive 260-acre interchange, but only in the way that it wants.
SCE&G, marketer of the mostly undeveloped property, is holding out for clients that can help forge an upscale commercial interstate interchange at the Cayce location. The area could include hotels, apartments, stores and medical offices.
A strict set of self-imposed covenants control development at the site, especially with landscaping requirements and architectural design, company officials say. Otarre Pointe land prices also range between $250,000 to $350,000 per acre, SCE&G said.
“Our top priority would be anything that would benefit our employees being here,” Morton said. “It would be nice to have some restaurants. It would be nice to have some retail at some point in time. Unfortunately, we’re very much in the same situation as downtown Columbia was 25 years ago.
“We’ve got plenty of people here until 5 o’clock, up and down the road. But at 5 o’clock everybody goes home. That’s the reason we’ve got to find some residential rooftops to keep people over after 5.”
Among the other needs that must be put in place for the Otarre Pointe development to take off is to attract a gas station that would take care of both the interstate traffic and the local traffic up and down 12th Street, Morton said.
But SCE&G also houses its biggest trucks at a facility on 12th Street near Otarre Pointe and it, too, looks to benefit from having a fueling station at the interchange, officials said.
Because their trucks are so large, proximity to their storage yard and plenty of space to maneuver their trucks in and out of a fuel station is one of the things the company wants out of the new development.
“But we don’t want 15 or 20 trucks stopped there to spend the night,” Morton said.
Land prices probably make single family homes unlikely at Otarre Pointe, so apartment developments are being sought and hotels – three to four of them – “definitely” will be part of the mix at some point, Morton said.
In December, SCANA sold 10.4-acres of the Otarre Pointe tract to Lexington Medical Center for $2.5 million, or roughly $240,000 an acre. Lexington Medical will build a two-story, 70,000-square-foot family practice, walk-in and occupational health clinics on the site.
‘We’re a landowner’
The jewel of the development at the interchange is SCANA’s relatively new headquarters.
SCANA moved its 1,200-person workforce to the $160 million, 550,000-square-feet, five-building campus three years ago, leaving the 21-story Palmetto Center on downtown Columbia’s Main Street.
“We’re trying to protect the integrity of the investment we’ve made here,” Morton said. “We want things that are going to be built around us (to be) as nice as we are.”
Situated on the Cayce side of I-77, in the southwest quadrant of the interchange, the ground level of the SCANA complex is bunkered behind a series of grass-covered berms.
The mounds will buffer the 20 acres of new shops and stores, conceptually dubbed as Otarre Market. Planned for the side of the new SCANA building, Otarre Market is conceived as a series of upscale shops and stores.
The adjacent 29 acres of living space in the concept, Otarre Village, is positioned in front of the SCANA building between it and 12th Street Extension. Together, they are conceived to be “a little city” – accessible to a nearby tennis center, but distinctly separate from the interstate commercial fueling center and other development across I-77, Morton said.
Residential units at Otarre Pointe almost certainly will be apartments, Morton said, because the cost of the land has so far proved too high to attract a single-family home developer.
“We’re trying diligently to do a good job,” he said. “We have some serious things to overcome,” cost and covenant restrictions chief among them, he said.
Otarre Pointe is conceptually divided off into chunks of acreage, where SCANA wants specific kinds of development, whether residential, office, commercial mixes, or interstate commercial.
“Would I sell ‘a lot?’ Yeah, I will sell ‘a lot’ or ‘an acre,’ ” Morton said. “But that’s not what we really do, and that’s not what we really want to do here. We’re not a developer –we’re a landowner.”
‘A bragging point’
When SCANA put its new digs in at Otarre Pointe, an impressive array of industry began to follow the march to the interchange.
And with good reason, according to Cayce Mayor Elise Partin.
“It doesn’t get more accessible than that, especially as far as being in the middle of the state, being accessible to the interstate, and airport, and the river, and trains – it couldn’t be much better,” Partin said.
Otarre Pointe also offers proximity in the Midlands and is easily accessible from the U.S. Northeast via I-77, Partin said. “It really is an amazing site.”
From Cayce’s city limits through the I-77 interchange, the 12th Street Extension now doubles as the entranceway to Lexington County’s 400-acre Saxe Gotha Industrial Park. Located on the east side of the interstate, the industrial park is not visible at the interchange.
SCANA and SCE&G have a total of 1,733 employees at their various operations along the 12th Street corridor, and they and the other corporations within the 4.5-mile stretch book-ended by the city limits on the west side of I-77, and SCE&G’s large-truck and gas training operations center on the east side of I-77, have committed to about 6,550 full-time and temporary jobs there.
Meanwhile, capital investment in that stretch of the 12th Street corridor has so far topped $520 million, based on news reports.
SCANA got into the Otarre Pointe area off I-77 before the interstate was built “almost by accident,” Morton said, by allowing first one company to dispose of excess dirt on the acreage there, then other companies.
SCE&G’s first presence on 12th Street Extension came when it consolidated several crew quarters into a single operations center near the Cayce city limit about 10 years ago, officials said. SCANA then built its office complex in 2009. At the far eastern end of the county industrial park, where SCANA owns 70 additional acres, sits its large-truck and gas training operations.
In between, Amazon opened a $40 million distribution center in the industrial park in 2011, employing 1,249 full-time workers. Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corp. is building a $313 million medication production plant next door to it, scheduled to open in the park in early 2014, where 1,000 or so people may be hired.
And a $4.6 million city-county tennis-and-fitness center was put in at the interchange on a $1-a-year lease as an amenity for future area residents, company officials said, though their residential expectations for the development have been considerably trimmed back.
Offices, apartments and commercial buildings are expected eventually to fill much of a 100-acre site cleared off in front of the tennis center.
Between the tennis center and the Congaree River, plans are being laid between local and federal entities for a 12,000 Year History Park that would capitalize on some of the earliest and most significant history points in South Carolina.
“Then you add on to that, you have what will be commercial development – that will be one of the most significant things to happen in the Midlands, development-wise,” said Partin, the Cayce mayor, “because it creates a gathering place and a meeting place, and a place that is a bragging point for the Midlands.”