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Daniel Island Marina Dockominiums

Thursday, July 13, 2006 - Last Updated: 7:14 AM

Slipping into dockominiums

Dry-stack marina selling individual homes for boats


The Post and Courier

One of the region's largest dry-stack marinas is being sold unit by unit to individual buyers after a recent change in ownership, a growing trend fueled by rising coastal property values and a scarcity of new slips both on sea and land.

Daniel Island Marina off Clements Ferry Road in Charleston joins several other local boat-storage rental facilities to be transformed into condominiums, just as numerous apartment complexes have been.

The seven-acre Clouter Creek property, including four small buildings, was sold last month for $13.2 million to a group led by homebuilder Freeman Barber Jr.

The seller was a company owned by real estate investor Joe Bartone, who developed Daniel Island Marina in the early 1990s. The facility has 427 dry-stack

units, which Barber said he plans to expand by about 10 percent, and 44 wet slips. For now, only the dry slips are available for purchase.

About 100 have been sold, with the average price rising to $65,000, since they went on the market last month, said Barber, a partner in Charleston-based SeaTown Homes LLC. "It's gone better than we expected," he said.

Daniel Island Marina joins the growing list of "dockominiums" that have lowered the depth of the boat-rental pool around the Charleston waterfront. Others include Wild Dunes Yacht Harbor, Tolers Cove Marina, Bohicket Marina and the renamed Harborage at Ashley Marina.

"It's a luxury item as opposed to a necessity," Barber said.

He began to view the shifting marina market as a real estate investment after buying a spot for his boat last year at the Harborage. "I've seen tremendous price appreciation on my slip over there," he said Wednesday.

Barber said his research took him to Wrightsville Beach, N.C., an early pioneer of the dockominum movement. Slips that sold for $17,000 in the 1990s now fetch more than $100,000, he said.

At the same time, Barber said, the cost of leasing a dry-stack space in the Charleston area has risen to about $13 a foot in some cases, up about $3 in the last few years, as growing demand bumps up against a limited number of units.

"Rents are going to continue to go up," he said. "It's hard to get new product."

The most recent dockominium deals in Charleston have followed a change in ownership. Because of environmental requirements and the escalating waterfront land prices, the values of existing marinas have climbed sharply. "I don't see them giving any permits away," Barber said.

In many cases, prices have climbed to the point that marina buyers no longer can justify the upfront investment by continuing to rent slip space exclusively. In other instances, the new owners don't want the hassles of the leasing business.

The dockominium craze has left some boaters of lesser means in the lurch, because it lowers the number of available rental spaces. Proponents of the trend said they offer buyers who can afford a slip equity in a fee-simple property and protection against rising lease rates. Barber said he plans to reserve some of the spots at the Daniel Island dry-stack for renters.

Robbie Freeman, managing partner of the company that runs the all-rental City Marina in Charleston, said dockominiums "have both advantages and disadvantages."

"I think most of the marinas that have been 'condoed' have been good investments for the people who bought them," Freeman said. "It has also been good for the non-condoed marinas because people who don't want to buy have been flocking to the marinas that have not been condoed. But there are very few of us left that aren't condoed."


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