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Charleston Naval Complex, South Carolina

Program: Base Realignment and Closure

Charleston Naval Complex, South Carolina


Public and private entities now employ nearly as many civilians as when the Charleston Naval Complex closed.

Charleston Naval Complex Today

Today more than 90 private, local, state, and federal entities are reusing the former Charleston Naval Complex.  The user mix includes shipyards, marine manufacturing companies, Coast Brewing, Water Mission, and other, smaller companies and nonprofits.  Altogether approximately 6.47 million square feet of building space is currently occupied accommodating a total of 6,000 employees – nearly 100 percent of civilian jobs lost when the base closed.  Of the total, approximately 4,500 are new jobs.


For the duration of the Cold War, the Charleston Naval Complex, the Shipyard and the Supply Center in particular, maintained its designation as the Navy's principal support organizations for the Navy's Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program.  These organizations, in concert with other base units, also provided support to the United Kingdom's Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program.

The 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended the closure of the Charleston Naval Complex.  The Shipyard, the Naval Station, the Naval Annex, the Defense Distribution Depot, and part of the Naval Supply Center closed in 1996, resulting in the loss of approximately 6,272 civilian jobs.  The Naval Station and Shipyard combined encompassed 1,379 acres. 

After the closure announcement, the South Carolina General Assembly swiftly moved to establish the Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority (CNCRA) as the local redevelopment authority.  A reuse plan was completed and amended, recommending a private shipyard and marine related activities, an industrial park and an office district.  The plan also called for a community park, a community support district providing facilities for the area's social services agencies, and public and recreational facilities for the city of North Charleston.

Charleston County and two adjoining counties put collaboration ahead of jurisdictional issues to work on the redevelopment and recruit new businesses to the region, forming the Charleston Regional Development Alliance (CRDA) to seek investments on behalf of all three counties.  The CRDA serves as a confidential, objective resource for businesses and entrepreneurs looking to locate or expand in the greater Charleston area.  They streamline the site selection process, assisting with talent, buildings and sites, financing, and workforce training needs.  The CRDA credits an early decision with their success – no politicians are allowed to serve on the board of directors. 

The commitment of the community and the CNCRA has impressed potential investors, as has the property that was left by the Navy:  a well-maintained complex of 23 piers, dry-docks and 1.8 million square feet of warehousing, along six miles of waterfront on the Cooper River that is accessible via a 42-foot deep channel. 

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and Federal Complex is situated on 200 acres of the former Charleston Naval Complex.  A joint project of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the CNCRA, the FLETC was built with $17 million in grants and CNCRA matching funds.  The FLETC was transferred to the DHS in fiscal year 2003, and current operations began on October 1, 2004.  A number of administrative and operational law enforcement agencies, as well as commercial businesses, are co-located within the Federal Complex.  The federal agencies include the Department of State, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard Base Charleston, the SeaHawk Interagency Operations Center, and the U.S. Maritime Administration.  Tugboat and ship support companies also operate on the complex.

In addition, Clemson University has three centers on the former Navy installation.  The Restoration Institute is a state-of-the-art materials analysis and characterization facility that is used to analyze artifacts or modern materials of metal, wood, textiles, polymers, glass, or ceramics.  The tank room houses a 90,000-gallon tank with two 20-ton cranes on rails where research and conservation is conducted on the 1860s submarine H.L. Hunley.  The Zucker Family Education Center opened in the fall of 2016 for working engineers and scientists in the Charleston-area to pursue graduate degrees.  And the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center houses the Duke Energy eGRID, an electrical grid simulator, and the world’s most-advanced wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility capable of full-scale highly accelerated mechanical and electrical testing of advanced drivetrain systems for wind turbines.  The two labs are linked and allow researchers to work on some of the technical challenges that need to be overcome to widen the use of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.  The wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility was a Department of Energy project and an investment of over $110 million.  The CNCRA was a partner in the project and gave Clemson land and money totaling $18 million.

Updated October, 2017

Point of Contact

Mr. Robert Ryan
Charleston Naval Complex Redevelopment Authority


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