March 2, 2009

Biz Center Gets a Home

John McDermott  /  The Post and Courier

Charleston has unveiled the location of a new Business Resource Center that Mayor Joe Riley announced last month. And it comes complete with its own full-service coffee house.

The city last week agreed to a roughly five-year lease starting for about 5,400 square feet of space at 475 East Bay St., formerly home to a Hollywood Video store. One of its neighbors at the heavily traveled Calhoun Street intersection: a Starbuck's cafe.

The resource center should be ready for occupancy by May 1, the mayor has said. It will be staffed by volunteers representing such specialties as law, accounting and marketing, and it will provide employers that operate within the city with "first-rate business offerings," said Ernest Andrade, Charleston's director of business development and head of the high-tech-focused Digital Corridor initiative. Andrade also will be based in the new digs.

"This will take economic development to a retail level," he said when the center was announced last month.

The city's landlord will be Mazyck Holdings LLC, which is affiliated with developer John Rivers' Rivers Enterprises, which is headquartered right across East Bay. The annual rent for the business center will be $91,000 for the first year starting in May, or $17 a square foot, and rise to $103,322 by the final year of the deal, for a grand total of about $486,000. The city also will spend up to $134,000 in interior improvements, according to the lease document. The old Hollywood Video space has been vacant for about 18 months.

Riley unveiled the idea for the Business Resource Center in January as part of broader plan to help local employers navigate the faltering economy. The announcement was paired with the city's proposal to hold a series of seminars to provide small companies with advice and counseling. The first of the "Weathering the Economic Storm" workshops is set for Thursday, from 8 to 9:30 a.m., at the American Theater at 446 King St. Speakers will discuss working with landlords on lease issues, working with a commercial lender on existing loans and securing financing.