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A new food market operated by the Lobeco-based Lowcountry Produce is likely coming to the former city hall building on Carteret Street.
Beaufort City Council members gave city manager Scott Dadson the authority Tuesday to enter into a 10-year lease for the historic building.
Mayor Billy Keyserling said the company plans to open a full grocery store, selling fresh, farm-grown fruits and vegetables along with prepared foods that it currently sells country-wide, such as chutney and relishes, soups, sauces, salsas, dips, jellies and other goods.
A representative of Lowcountry Produce could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Residents have long asked for a grocery in Beaufort's downtown core, Keyserling said.
"The market's been screaming for it," he said. "All of a sudden, we have a company who exports their stuff all over the country who wants to come downtown."
The old city hall building, which sits beside the public library in the heart of downtown, housed city employees until August when they moved to the new City Hall at the intersection of Ribaut Road and Boundary Street.
Bundy Appraisal & Management Inc. valued the building at $875,000 earlier this year as Beaufort's Redevelopment Commission began seeking proposals for use of the city-owned structure.
Keyserling and other council members declined to say how much Lowcountry Produce will pay for the lease until the agreement is signed, which could be as soon as this week, Dadson said.
Councilman Mike McFee called the price "competitive," and Keyserling added that it's not a giveaway.
In other action Tuesday:
Before the car company could move forward, it needed to get its site -- part of which sits in Beaufort County and part in the city of Beaufort -- within a single jurisdiction.
Beaufort City Council gave final approval Tuesday to annex those parcels sitting in the county into the city and zone them as a highway commercial district.
The company's existing dealership, located near the intersection of Robert Smalls Parkway and Trask Farm Road, sits entirely on county land.
No one from the company spoke during the meeting.
Changes to the Airport Junction development agreement are part of a pending legal settlement between the city and the property's owner, Fred Trask, who sued Beaufort in 2008 after it denied an application from Walmart to build a 190,000-square-foot store on the site.
As part of the settlement, Trask would agree to reduce the amount of commercial and residential development allowed on other properties he owns on Lady's and Port Royal islands, city officials said.
A second public hearing will be held July 26.
Follow staff writer Juliann Vachon at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort.