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Another developer drops old CMS plans

Posted: November 30, 2010 4:35 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Cypress Pointe LLC will not develop the former Camden Middle School (CMS) property on Laurens Street.

Monday, real estate agent Robert Horton was e-mailing information about what was being called Monument Square Village to people in the Camden area. It included details such as the fact that the lots would be .3 to .75 in size, with two lots fronting Monument Square, 16 fronting a new extension of Jordan Street and one lot with an access off of Lyttleton Street. There were pictures of possible homes and site plans being priced from $75,000 to $89,000 a piece.

Tuesday afternoon, Horton said he would be calling the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) to tell officials there the developer was pulling out.

“I just met with the developer a little while ago,” Horton said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We’ve been going over the numbers for the last week and the numbers just don’t support the project right now in this housing market.”

It was nearly the same answer given by Robert Lackey, who headed up an earlier effort to develop the property but backed out in early April.

Horton said the housing market, at least in Camden, looked worse each month he and Cypress Pointe conducted due diligence on the former school property.

“It just doesn’t sReeem like it’s a viable market right now. If it gets better, we may come back to it. I hate it for Camden and so does the developer,” said Horton.

He said Cypress Pointe received fairly good feedback about the project, but those who would have put up money for lots three or five years ago were saying they were just not sure they could do so now.

“We thought we were creating a good number of lots downtown, but we just don’t see the demand out there,” Horton said. “We just haven’t seen (the market) improve enough and, specifically, in the Camden area. In Elgin, they were doing three, four times what we were here and that’s still the case. Not many people are moving to Camden, maybe just a handful.”

Horton suggested that Camden needs more industry and jobs to create a demand for more housing. He said the Camden market is geared toward retirees and families who look to either schools, recreation or both for where to live.

“Unfortunately, (residents) voted down the Penny for Progress, so recreation’s not going to change anytime soon,” said Horton, who said he was standing outside his office looking across at the city of Camden’s Town Green project. “We were hoping to build off of that. Maybe somebody else will step up to do it.”

Horton said the developer was “ready to go for it” up until Sunday.

“He rode around town and said he was seeing too many ‘For Sale’ signs,” as opposed to “Sold” said Horton.

He said he does not see the housing market returning to the “bubble” years of 2001-2008.

“This would have been a slam dunk five years ago. I bet the school district would have had three offers on the property. But it’s not just the housing market; the banks aren’t loaning money like they were before. Anyone coming in to build downtown is going to have to have a lot of money to show and perfect credit. We’re having a lot of problems right now with people getting loans,” Horton said.

Horton said the KCSD had been “great” to work with.

“They have bent over backwards to make this work for us,” he said. “I’m not sure what the backup plan for the school district is. I’ve heard they may go ahead and tear it down. That could help the next person who purchases the property.”

KCSD officials were contacted about the back-out mid-afternoon Tuesday. KCSD Communications Director Mary Anne Byrd said the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees would be notified during that evening’s board meeting.

When asked about the possibility of the school district tearing down the old school, KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan said, “Those are matters we’ll have to take up with the school board.”

For now, Cypress Pointe’s decision to back out leaves the site as it currently is: with an aging former school building that has been vandalized and partially demolished. It also leaves Jordan Street’s current dead-end on the site’s north side intact.

Both development plans had called for Jordan Street to be extended between Hampton and Laurens streets, something Boogertown residents objected to. Residents said the extension would invite people to cut through from Broad Street to Lyttleton Street, increasing traffic on a narrow portion of Hampton Street that has no sidewalks.

Critics have repeatedly said they had no problem with the old CMS site being developed, but wanted developers to find a way to do so without extending Jordan Street.

Horton had originally indicated new home lots might be ready for purchase by May 2011.

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