Utility’s loan aids Blythewood project

rburris@thestate.comApril 30, 2013 

The town of Blythewood will use a $900,000 loan from state utility Santee Cooper to lure a 4,800-square-foot “polished casual” restaurant to town, officials said Tuesday.

The restaurant, which officials would not yet name, will be located in the 325-acre Doko Meadows Business Park surrounding the town hall, where officials hope it will help spark commercial development in Blythewood.

“We’ve been working on the (town) master plan for four years and this is our third project that was master-planned, so it’s starting to get some legs,” said John Perry, Blythewood town administrator.

“We were hoping the loan would be approved so that we could be finished by Oct. 31, which is pretty aggressive, but we’re hoping we still can meet that.”

A passive activity park and a conference center on a 25-acre core around the historic town hall building that also features a lake are the other master-plan projects already in place in the business park.

State-owned utility Santee Cooper’s board of directors approved the $900,000 loan to build a 4,800-square-foot shell building to house the restaurant, which its owners will finish building out. Fairfield Electric Cooperative, the utility that serves the property, also is contributing $460,000 in utility tax credits for the project, and the town is contributing $260,000 toward the project, which has a total cost of $1.6 million, according to Santee Cooper.

Economic development is part of the utility’s original mission, according to Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore, who said the power generator has made a half-dozen loans since 2012 to local entities under its revamped program for assisting with infrastructure development such as water and sewer installation to help boost economic development.

The Santee Cooper board also voted to increase the initial discount rate to 55 percent from 45 percent for a new or expanding industrial firm over five years, instead of four years, and extended the period for offering those initial discounts by a year to December 2015.

The Blythewood restaurant deal is known as “Project Booster,” but the eatery is not a national brand. Officials said they think it will create jobs by drawing other new commerce to the area.

The Blythewood Town Council meets again on May 13, and officials said they hope an announcement can be made then.

“It’s a very nice, ‘polished casual’ restaurant that will set up,” Perry said. “And as I told (town) council, it is a restaurant that can build a market in our locale based on its reputation elsewhere.”

According to a job listing on Monster.com, Restaurant Management Search is looking for a manager for a private client – a restaurant opening its second location in Blythewood and described as “a well-established dinner-only Upscale-Casual concept.”

The listing goes on to say: “The owner is a former executive with several large restaurant companies. He has taken the best from several concepts and created an inviting, classy, high-quality concept with an emphasis on great American food and adult beverages.”

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