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Chester County in Northern South Carolina embraces potential boom
Charlotte Oct. 26, 2006 

Charlotte developer Mel Graham announced earlier this month plans to turn his 6,000 acres on both sides of Interstate 77 into a 9,000-home mega mixed-use development that could exceed $2 billion. He calls it Montrose and says it will be completed over about 20 years.

Is Chester County ready for such a boom?

Residents, county officials and Graham say it is. But two planning experts are less sure.

While Charlotte-area counties such as Cabarrus and York see thousands of homes built each year, Chester County has been relatively stagnant. Last year, there were 87 single-family permits and 58 mobile home permits issued countywide, according to the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. Through the second quarter of 2006, the county issued 34 single-family housing permits and 34 mobile home permits. All told, the county had 14,374 housing units in the 2000 Census.

Graham said he could start by late next year on the first phase. He said it would likely cover roughly 1,200 acres and include a golf course, clubhouse and residential lots.

He first must work with S.C. officials on converting an existing overpass into an interchange named Exit 58 to improve access to the development, about 38 miles south of Charlotte. Graham said this week the S.C. Department of Transportation has OK'd the interchange work, but has not committed any money.

So where will Montrose residents come from? With an unemployment rate of 10.3 percent -- highest in the region -- and a median household income of about $33,000, the county's residents don't fit the demographic for high-end homes. The average single family home value for permits issued so far this year is about $146,000 -- the low end in today's dollars of what Graham said most homes will go for.

"That doesn't have any bearing on our project, because the people who will ultimately be buying in Montrose will not be from Chester County," Graham said. "They will be imports."

Graham sees Montrose luring people from Mecklenburg County who want to live in the next Ballantyne, the 2,000-acre mixed-used development in Charlotte, south of Interstate 485. He says he's also in talks with a company to help him develop a retirement community like Del Webb's Sun City Carolina Lakes in Lancaster County, S.C., but he wouldn't talk specifics.

Some text derived from the Charlotte Observer

Published Saturday, November 11, 2006 10:03 AM by Angie Adams NC/SC REALTOR® Broker

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