Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shipwatch Square: its history and current redevelopment updates

Update #7 September 20, 2012
An image of the cleared site taken from the former Naval Hospital.

Update #6 August 28, 2102
All of the building on the site have been cleared and grass has begun to grow.

Update #5 April 9, 2012
A Post and Courier article by Robert Behre from a recent interview with North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey.

Update #4 March 2, 2012
Demolition continues at Shipwatch Square with only a few buildings remaining.
Update #3 January 12, 2012
Building 2, which was parallel to Meeting Street Road (former home to Woolworth's and Belks) has been demolished, as has the bank at the intersection of McMillan and Rivers Avenue.

Update #2 November 21, 2011
Demolition continues.
Update #1 November 8, 2011
The demolition of the old Shipwatch Square is ongoing.  The building that formerly housed a Chinese restaurant and the Howard Johnson restaurant has been demolished, as well as the shopping center building parallel to McMillan Avenue.  The contractors are currently demolishing the bank building (former home to Wachovia, and before that South Carolina National Bank) at the corner of McMillan and Rivers Avenues.

The removal of asbestos containing materials from the remaining two shopping center buildings is proceeding.  Afterwards, the final two buildings will be demolished.

Please note that Shipwatch’s last remaining tenant, “Citi Trends,” has relocated to the shopping center on Rivers Avenue at Aviation Avenue.  Auto Sound Specialist (747-0047) remains in business at its current location, as does “Lord of the Harvest” in the former movie theater at the corner of McMillan Avenue and Meeting Street Road.

November 7, 2011

History of Shipwatch Square

In 1895, long before Pinehaven Shopping Center, the City of Charleston established 600-acre Chicora Park north of the its boundaries along the Inland Trail.  The Trail itself was a vital route of commerce, carrying goods between the sea coast and the Midlands of South Carolina.  Over the next decade, the United States Navy took possession of 1,575 acres along the west bank of the Cooper River, consuming the Park through its expansion.  Eventually, a 20-acre site was developed just outside of the Naval Base gates for the Pinehaven Sanatorium, a health care facility for tuberculosis patients.

In 1958, the Pinehaven Shopping Center was built on the site of the former sanatorium and consisted of 200,000 square feet of retail business. Pinehaven’s landmark structure was a central circle tower that bore the its name and held all of the lighting for the parking lot hidden within the top circle of the tower.
The shopping center opened for business September 17, 1959. Two grocery stores, a national retail clothier, one national five and dime store, one large local retailer, one bank and numerous small businesses made up the complex.  In future years a cinema was added.  The shopping center was very successful for decades and the occupancy of tenants remained high.  As the area continued to develop from the presence of the Naval Base, the center was renamed Shipwatch Square.

Although the shopping center began to decline with the establishment of area indoor shopping malls, a major blow came when the US Navy announced the closing of the Naval Base and Shipyard in North Charleston, displacing 12,000 civilian and 8,000 military employees. This was a large economic setback to the immediate area as many of the workers would use the retail outside of the base to shop and dine. Winn Dixie was the last major tenant, vacating the center in 2005 as part of the chain’s closure of all its grocery stores in South Carolina. The rest of the center maintained a few lower tier establishments, but was generally unoccupied.

In 2002, the City created a new vision for the 3,000 acres south of I-526 and east of I-26 from Cosgrove Avenue to the Cooper River known as the Noisette Community Master Plan. Real estate ventures began to rise as investors bought into the City’s new vision. Shipwatch Square was purchased by new stakeholders who had an ambitious development plan. However, the US economy began to slip in 2008 and the new development did not progress.  The City was patient in encouraging private enterprises, but in the end, redevelopment was not initiated.

Redevelopment begins

The City of North Charleston purchased 16.4 acres of the center in 2010, leaving the corner property for the former developer to negotiate a sale with a drug store.  After the developer’s negotiations fell through, the City acquired the final parcel on the corner of McMillan and Rivers Avenues in 2011.

North Charleston has created a number of conceptual plans for the property and is working with the surrounding businesses and an adjacent church to find the appropriate mix of tenants and financing to make the redevelopment successful. The City intends to create a complete master plan and secure development partners for its implementation.

The City approved a lease with Walgreens and a local developer to become the first tenant in the new center. The drug store chain will lease the property for 3 years and thereafter have the option to purchase the parcel located at the corner of McMillan and Rivers Avenues.  The City is also in negotiations with a bank to locate on site.

The City feels that housing should be major component of the development to attract residents into the immediate area. The North Charleston Housing Authority is investigating building its new offices at Shipwatch Square. In addition, the city has received interest in relocating to the site from Charleston County Library, Clemson University Extension Service, Fetter Health Care Clinics, Charleston County Health Services, the Pinehaven Post Office, and the Small Business Administration.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the area around Shipwatch Square has been classified as a food desert.  The Mayor and City Council are committed to attracting a full-service grocery as the anchor tenant of the location’s redevelopment.  This effort may also include community or urban gardens, farmers markets and educational activities for the community. The City is currently in discussion with several grocery store chains.

The City of North Charleston remains very optimistic about the success of the redevelopment.  This is a wonderful opportunity to create a new community in the south end of the city and provide the residents a deserving quality place to work, live, play, and shop.


  1. They need to put up a walmart

    1. we need a real grocery store like Publix or Harris Teeter. Walmart sucks.

  2. Walmart would take up that whole shopping center. It would be nice to have a lot of smaller stores there to give shoppers choices and help smaller businesses out.

  3. I think that you made cool solution the moment when you selected this theme of the article of yours over here. Do you usually create your blog articles alone or maybe you have a writing partner or a helper?

  4. No, a prison needs to be put up on the site to house all of the low-life leaches who rob, murder and steal everything around them. Then maybe it won't be such a trash hole