Boeing Co. buys more SC real estate for expansion

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The Boeing Co. is expanding its real estate holdings in North Charleston to enable future growth, reports the Post and Courier.   The aerospace giant has agreed to buy three office buildings from its neighbor, the South Carolina Research Authority.  The buildings, which total 178,000 square feet, are on about 20 acres owned by the Charleston County Airport Authority between the Boeing campus and International Boulevard. The sale is expected to close Dec. 13.

A spokeswoman for the SCRA, which was launched with state money and land but now considers itself a private corporation with a public mission, declined to reveal the financial details at Boeing’s request. “It’s not really up to us,” said Micki Howard, Research Authority spokeswoman.  She said the purchase price was based on the “fair appraised value” of the buildings, which was $25 million in 2010. The offices were completed in 1989, according to Howard.

The Research Authority does most of its applied research and commercialization activity there, according to its website, and several other tenants, including Boeing, the College of Charleston’s Lowcountry Graduate Center and the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, are tenants. Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said the company, which makes 787 Dreamliners in North Charleston, has no particular plans for the buildings.

Eslinger, said “assuming the lease of that property makes sense for us to protect any future growth plans that we may have here. In the near term, we may look at some opportunities for additional parking.”

The Research Authority, and its more than 100 local employees, will stay in the building and manage the tenants through 2014, when the last are scheduled to move out, Howard said.  She said the agency was willing to sell the buildings because it could use a higher-tech space and because part of its mission is to promote economic development in the region.  “It’s good for Boeing, good for us,” Howard said. “It’s time for a change.”

Aviation Authority Chairman Chip Limehouse also hailed the deal, calling it a “win-win.” For Boeing, “it fits neatly in their footprint. It’s a logical acquisition for Boeing to continue their expansion and progress at the airport,” he said.  As for the Research Authority and its tenants, Limehouse said: “We’re going to find a bigger and a better space for all of those folks.”

In September 2010, the Research Authority received approval to assign its land lease with the airport to Boeing. Research Authority CEO Bill Mahoney, who could not be reached Monday, said in January that the transfer of the lease would likely only happen after Boeing significantly ramps up production in North Charleston.  The entire Charleston International site encompasses about 1,300 acres. Of that, Boeing leases 267 acres for $1 per year, according to Limehouse. Airport operations account for about 383 acres.

Boeing has been in expansion mode ever since it bought out its suppliers’ North Charleston factories in 2008 and 2009. Last year it opened up a massive final assembly building and delivery center at its campus adjacent to the airport and an interiors factory near Ladson. Over the next year or so, it will expand its aft-body factory, among other smaller construction projects.  Read More.