Tanger Outlet in Bluffton will be rebuilt next year

The owners of Tanger Outlet Center I in Bluffton plan to begin demolishing and redeveloping the shopping center early next year after Beaufort County officials granted final approval this week for the project.

The owners of the 25-acre center have long been "embarrassed" about its condition and have planned to rebuild it since 2005, said Walter Nester, a McNair Law Firm attorney representing Tanger.

It took so long to get approval in part because of the size and complexity of the project, he said after this week's vote by the county's Development Review Team. "It has certainly been a lengthy process but one I believe has produced a great result for both the county and Tanger."

Some tenants of the center already have moved down U.S. 278 to Tanger Outlet Center II in preparation for demolition, Nester said.

Tanger Outlet Center II is fully occupied, however, so some tenants of Tanger Outlet Center I will probably have to relocate elsewhere temporarily to accommodate the redevelopment, outlets general manager LaDonna Shamlou said.

Details of how that will happen haven't been settled. Tanger officials have intentionally kept occupancy in Outlet Center I low to limit the number of tenants that need to relocate, Shamlou said.

Tanger officials had discussed building the new center in phases to avoid relocating all tenants at once, but they now plan to do the work all at once. Shamlou said the company decided doing the work in phases would be too disruptive to business.

The new center is planned to include about 196,000 square feet of retail space, about 7,000 more than the current center. The new site plan also includes four outparcels, one of which is slated to have a Panera Bread eatery.

Some environmental advocates and county officials wanted a redeveloped center to become more of a "live-work environment," but Tanger officials said including residential space would not have fit its business model.

Tanger donated 2.3 acres to extend the Bluffton Parkway and won concessions to its site plan that otherwise would not have been allowed, Nester said. Those concessions included landscaping and setback requirements.