Charleston County councilman motions to end lease at Chicora Life Center

Charleston County Councilman Joseph K. Qualey wants the county to terminate its lease at the Chicora Life Center for breach of contract.

Formerly the historic Charleston Naval Hospital, the nearly 400,000-square-foot, 10-story facility at 3600 Rivers Ave. in North Charleston was purchased from the city in 2014 for $9.2 million by Chicora Gardens Holdings LLC. The property is slated to become a social services hub and Chicora Gardens Holdings is renovating the property at a cost of approximately $30 million.

The as-yet uncompleted renovations appear to be creating a problem, though, according to Qualey’s Motion to Terminate the Lease for 3600 Rivers Avenue Between Chicora Life Center and Charleston County, introduced at the council’s Nov. 10 meeting. A county spokesman supplied Palmetto Business Daily with a copy of the motion.

Charleston County, which on June 30, 2014 signed a 25-year lease to be the anchor tenant at the location, will pay $12 per square foot each year in rent.

Chicora sent Charleston County a May 1 “ready for occupancy” letter, but Qualey said in his motion that “the County notified Chicora Life Center in response … that it had 30 days to complete the tenant improvements pursuant to Article 19” or the county would have grounds to terminate the lease.

On August 26, according to Qualey’s motion, Charleston County provided a second notification to Chicora that if Chicora “had not cured its default of fulfilling the preconditions and its obligations of the Lease by November 1, 2015,” the county would consider Chicora in breach of the lease and terminate it.

“Since Chicora has not cured the default and its obligations of the Lease, I move that Charleston County Council terminate the Lease for 3600 Rivers Avenue,” according to Qualey’s motion.

Qualey's motion at the council’s November 10 meeting brought up questions by other council members as to the legal ramifications of breaking the lease so the council voted to defer the motion until the next scheduled meeting on November 19.

County council public information officer Shawn Smetana told Palmetto Business Daily that no information on such ramifications was currently available.

Some of the other companies and government agencies that have signed leases in the center include the Charleston County Coroner’s Office; the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services; Fetter Health Care Networks, Inc.; Charleston County Vital Records; the Tri-County Intergroup Office, which supports Alcoholics Anonymous; and the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center.

The front of the facility will include a children’s park with fountains. Also planned are walking and biking trails, a rooftop garden, a community recreation center, a library, museums and child-care facilities. Other possible tenants include a grocer, cafeteria and fitness club.

Qualey, a Charleston native who owns Qualey Law Firm, represents District 9.

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