Consultant Pitches Spec Building

BLYTHEWOOD – The Town’s Economic Development consultant, Ed Parler, made another pitch during Council’s work session on Tuesday for the Town to invest in a shell building to be built across from Town Hall where a restaurant was previously planned under former Town Administrator John Perry.

In its aborted decision to build the restaurant, Town Council rezoned approximately 2 acres of the Town’s new park next to the railroad in front of Town Hall for a business park. The Town acquired a $240,714 grant from Fairfield Electric Cooperative and a $456,881 loan from Santee Cooper to pay for the construction. After a new Council majority, consisting of Bob Massa, Bob Mangone and Tom Utroska , elected in 2012, voted to dismantle the restaurant plans, the Town paid back the loan, plus $18,000 in interest to Santee Cooper. Now Council must use the Fairfield Electric grant money specifically for economic development or return it with a penalty and interest.

“Therefore,” Parler told Council, “we have been moving toward a way to use that grant money.”

Calling himself ever the optimist, Parler called on Council to consider investing the grant money into a shell building with three possible uses: a restaurant, an office building or an office/café combination.

A couple of months ago the Town engaged Parker Poe law firm, which recently obtained a comfort letter from the S.C. Department of Revenue for the investment project. With that, Parler outlined a pathway he envisions for Council to effectively carry out the shell building project, which he envisions as a 3,800-square-foot shell to be built in the designated business park area of the Town park. Parler asked Council to give guidance as to what they feel is the proper use of the building.

Parler said the exterior would be a replica of the former town depot as it had been planned for the restaurant.

“But while the restaurant had been planned with the highest quality construction,” Parler explained, “we are going with industry standards for the shell building.”

For the design of the project, Parler asked Council to consider engaging architect Ralph Walden, who previously designed projects for the Town before moving out of state for several years. Parler said he expects the design, plan and specs to be completed by Oct. 15 and the project to be awarded to a contractor by November. He told Council members he would present them with a bottom line budget for the project at the Sept. 28 Council meeting.

Parler said he expects a sale to be consummated on the shell building around the first of the year.


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