Town selling Doko shell building to developer

Doko Depot

BLYTHEWOOD – Failing after a year and a half to sell the Doko Depot shell building across from Town Hall as a restaurant, Council passed first reading Monday evening to authorize the sale of the building to a developer, Wheeler and Wheeler, LLC of Columbia for $325,000.

About five years ago, Town Council borrowed $900,000 from Santee Cooper Electric and received a $456,881 grant (free) from Fairfield Electric that had to be spent on economic development or returned.

The original intent of that Council was to build a restaurant on park property in front of Town Hall (for approximately $1.4 million) and lease it to an established restaurant operator. The loan was to have been repaid from the proceeds of lease payments.

In the interim, the proposed lessor was unable to obtain a performance guarantee to cover the Town’s expense and the lease was never finalized. As a result, the Town returned $900,000 to Santee Cooper, and a new council voted to construct a smaller, less expensive building with the $325,916 remaining from the $456,881 Fairfield Electric grant.

But the building could only be used for “economic development” such as an office building, start-up company or restaurant.

The Town budgeted $410,000 for the new building.

The winning base bid to build the shell building was $379,850 submitted by Lyn-Rich Contracting Co., Inc. of West Columbia. With options, which Council voted to accept, the bid came to $388,100. Those options included walkways and special fire protection equipment.

Town Administrator Gary Parker suggested that any costs over the $325,916 could probably be taken from Hospitality Tax revenue.  He said the intent was to recover that revenue with the sale of the shell building.

When the Town broke ground on construction of the building in September, 2016, The Town’s economic development consultant, Ed Parler, said he expected to begin marketing the building in November and that he expected to have a buyer shortly after the first of 2017.

While Parler has had several prospects for a restaurant, none have materialized.

“We’ve been dealing with this for a long time,” Mayor J. Michael Ross told Council, “and we finally have a contract.”

“Since this company (Wheeler) is a developer, we still don’t know how this property is going to be used. Is that correct?” Councilman Malcolm Gordge asked.

“As part of the contract, the property is in the Town Center District (TCD) and there are certain activities in the TCD that would not be appropriate for use on that property,” Parler said. “The excluded uses and allowed uses are defined in the contract.

“Mr. Wheeler has indicated that the clients he is working with seem to be very conforming to the nature of the property’s intended use,” Parler said.

“If we decide not to go through with this on second reading, can we void the contract?” Councilman Larry Griffin asked.

“No,” Parler answered.

But Town Attorney Jim Meggs said that if the ordinance doesn’t get enacted on the second reading, the deal is off.”

Council voted 5-0 to authorize the mayor to sign the contract.

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