Target aims for Charleston distribution site, following Walmart’s lead

Retail giant Target Corp. is looking for an import distribution center in the Lowcountry after bringing cargo through a temporary warehouse set up at the Port of Charleston‘s Leatherman Terminal these past few months.

Target, the nation’s second-biggest importer behind Walmart, has been using a portable cross-dock hub built on a future expansion site at the North Charleston terminal since August. Such set-ups allow a company bring cargo containers in on one side of the building and then load them onto trucks on the other side. The temporary facility was set up by Minnesota-based Dockzilla Co., which builds portable loading systems and warehouses.

Target aims to bring 15,000 containers of goods through the site in a year’s time — with the potential to grow to 50,000 per year — according to the S.C. State Ports Authority.

“It’s a temporary warehouse, and they’ll be looking for a permanent home,” Barbara Melvin, the SPA’s president and CEO, told legislators during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting last week in Columbia. “So, as they continue to kick the tires in Charleston, we are performing for them.”

A Target spokesman said the company is “continually evaluating potential supply chain facility locations to serve our guests,” but added “we don’t have any new supply chain facility news to share at this time.”

The Minneapolis-based chain isn’t the only retailer setting up shop at the port. Amazon has been operating out of a cross-dock site at the SPA’s Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, bringing an estimated 27,000 containers through it in 2022. Melvin told legislators that site has “large growth potential.”

Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer, found its permanent spot near the port when it opened a 3 million-square-foot import distribution center on SPA-owned property in Ridgeville. The $220 million Dorchester County site, the size of 52 football fields, officially opened in April. It brought 70,000 containers of mostly Asian-made goods through the port in 2022. 

The focus on retail is part of the SPA’s effort to diversify its cargo base beyond the advanced manufacturing clients it has served for more than a decade.

Melvin said businesses like Walmart “do a tremendous amount of due diligence” before settling on a location, and their presence in the Charleston area gives the port an advantage in attracting other retailers.

“We’re able to build on that momentum by successfully handling their cargo,” she said.

Now that Walmart is bringing containers to the Ridgeville Commerce Park, the SPA is looking for an exporter — Melvin mentioned agricultural or forest products companies as possibilities — to move those boxes back to the port via a Norfolk Southern rail line that crosses the property.

“It gives us the opportunity to take an empty import box, fill it with exported transload cargo … and then bring that box back to the port,” Melvin said. “If you think about the Walmart impact for us, that could be up to 100,000 … containers annually that we could fill with exports. … I think this site represents one of the top transload sites left in the Southeast. So this is a gem for us to continue to market.”

The Fort Prince Logistics Center in Wellman is among $2 billion worth of industrial projects Kansas City-based developer Hunt Midwest plans to build in South Carolina, including along Clements Ferry Road in Charleston. Hunt Midwest/Provided

From KC to SC

A Kansas City development firm is making a push into the Palmetto State, with a trio of speculative warehouse projects including one on a busy stretch of Clements Ferry Road in Charleston.

Hunt Midwest has filed plans with state regulators to build a 163,800-square-foot warehouse on nearly 13.9 acres of wooded property at the intersection of Clements Ferry and Charleston Regional Parkway. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is reviewing the project because the development would impact about a half-acre of wetlands. The project would also include 186 parking spaces.

The building would be located in an industrial area that already includes manufacturers Stoba USA and Mankiewicz Coatings and third-party logistics firm Kontane Logistics.

The Charleston site follows a 476,280-square-foot warehouse Hunt built in Wellford. Construction of the Fort Prince Logistics Center wrapped up earlier this month on a 47-acre site just west of Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County.

“This location sits perfectly at the intersection of a growing manufacturing and logistics corridor with a highly skilled workforce,” Mike Bell, Hunt’s senior vice president for commercial real estate, said in a written statement. “The billions of dollars invested by BMW, Walmart, FedEx and the Inland Port Greer in this part of the Upstate are a testament to how important this region is to the economy along the entire East Coast.”

Another Upstate project, the 259,000-square-foot Evergreen Logistics Park, is nearing completion in Anderson County.

All told, Hunt said it plans to build 2 million square feet of industrial space across South Carolina in the coming years. The privately held company has built more than $2 billion worth of industrial, self-storage, residential, multifamily and senior-living centers in eight states.

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