Builders Anxiously Await BRAC List - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/09/05

Builders Anxiously Await BRAC List

Military installations across the Coastal Empire and Low Country eagerly await the announcement of which bases will close and which will remain open. The base realignment and closure (BRAC) list is due out later this week, and while military families are worried about the outcome, so are some builders and developers.

The military pumps about $454 million into our local economy, and that's just direct impact. So many builders and developers in the Low Country have a lot at stake and are sitting on pins and needles, waiting to see what's going to happen to the Tri-Command.

Construction crews are hard at work, building a second phase of apartments at the Preserve in Port Royal, a project developers decided to move ahead with two years ago, despite Beaufort's uncertain future.

"We took a big risk, but it's one of the chances you take," said Dean Morrissey with the Millennium Group.

Nearly half of the residents at the Preserve right now are military, and they're counting on military families to fill up the second phase of this development. But now with just days before the BRAC list is released, developers are a little nervous.

"Everybody is waiting," said Morrissey. "I think everyone has their fingers crossed in the community because it has such a huge impact as to how our community moves forward."

Although it's business as usual on some construction sites, other builders and developers are waiting for the Department of Defense to give them the green light.

Bernie Kole is one of them. He's put several potential projects on hold.

"It's simply a business decision based on economics," said Kole. "There's no sense in taking on a heavy debt load unless I'm sure there's an economic reality to being able to develop it and sell it off."

Besides working as a builder in the area, Kole and other volunteers in the community have worked hard on the Military Enhancement Committee (MEC), trying to keep Parris Island, the Air Station and Naval Hospital Beaufort safe from BRAC.

And he's hoping it will pay off. "I personally think we're looking pretty good right now, we've done all the DOD has asked."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is expected to release the BRAC list later this week. We've checked around and there are a lot of projects in the works locally--a hotel, apartment complexes, an office building--all depending on this list.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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