Carolinas HealthCare System wants to build a new $79.1 million, 64-bed hospital a portion of land near the Catawba River donated more than a decade ago to the Culture and Heritage Foundation.
The health care provider said Tuesday it has a contract to buy 20 acres located in the southwest quadrant of I-77 and Sutton Road exit, just north of the river. Fifteen acres would be developed if Carolinas HealthCare System wins a three-way contest to build a new Fort Mill hospital.
Carolinas HealthCare System, Piedmont Medical Center and Presbyterian Healthcare all submitted applications to the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control on Monday. A decision is not expected before March.
Presbyterian proposes building a $76.2 million, 64-bed hospital at the northeast quadrant of the I-77/Sutton Road exit while Piedmont proposes a 100-bed, $124 million hospital at the intersection of S.C. 160 and U.S. 21.
This is the first publically announced sale of any portion of the approximately 330 acres the foundation, set aside for development. Sixty additional acres have been reserved for a new museum. If successful, the land sale will help the foundation pay back some of the debt it holds on the property.
In 1998 Jane Spratt McColl donated about 400 acres along the river to the foundation for a future museum and environmentally friendly development.
Precious natural and archeological features are found throughout the site, including the remains of an 18th-century Catawba Indian village and Catawba burial sites.
Some are concerned that theexisting and undiscovered sites might not be protected in a land sale, but museum leaders say otherwise.
The state archaeologist, along with leaders of the Catawba Indian Nation, the museum, the foundation and its real estate arm are discussing ways to protect existing and undiscovered archaeological sites in the event of a land sale.
Sustainable Development Group Properties, the museum's development arm, has conducted comprehensive archeological surveys of the 400 acres meeting applicable federal and state laws and standards, said Carol Maroska,, president of the Culture and Heritage Foundation.
State Archaeologist Jonathan Leader said, "Given the location, nature, and history of the property, you have to take into account that there are likely to be considerably more things on the property than we are currently able to talk about at the present time."
'We have done our due diligence'
Potential buyers, Leader said, would need to be aware that the discovery of additional archaeological sites "could trigger additional oversight by state and federal law," he said.
Carolinas HealthCare System officials are aware of the discussions, said Chris Hummer, president of Carolinas Medical Center-Pineville and spokesman for the Fort Mill project. He also said Carolinas HealthCare System has a track record of being archaeologically sensitive in its development projects. "We have done our due diligence," he said.
The 20-acre site is a slight change for Carolinas HealthCare System. In an earlier application, it identified a 50-acre site owned by Crescent Resources as a possible location for the hospital. Hummer said Carolinas HealthCare System changed sites because of Crescent's "financial instability." In June 2009 Crescent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The firm came out of Chapter 11 protection this past June.
Specifics of the Carolinas HealthCare System-foundation contract were not released.
Tuesday's announcement is the latest development in a contentious saga of how the 400 acres should be used.
After the donation the foundation, which raises money to fund projects of the Culture and Heritage Museums, decided to develop about 330 acres as a mixed-use, sustainable community.
Proceeds from the development would fund a new museum and existing museum projects.
The foundation created Sustainable Development Group to develop the land. Cherokee Investment Partners, became a partner, bringing money and experience to carry out the plan.
After the economy soured, Cherokee Investment Partners left the deal, selling back its investment in the project in exchange for $3.78 million.
To pay off the note, leaders of the foundation and its development arm have been trying to sell a portion of the land.
The foundation has until June 2011, with a possible one-year extension to pay back the note.
"I hope this validates that this is a very desirable site, even in times of a stressed economy," Maroska said.