The international nonprofit organization Water Missions International is relocating from its West Ashley headquarters to a warehouse on the northern end of the Navy Yard.
Water Missions International is a Christian engineering ministry that focuses on providing clean water access in developing nations, with full-time staff working in Indonesia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, Haiti, Belize, Peru, and Honduras. Founder and CEO George Greene III says the organization has about 150 employees worldwide, including 25 who work at the Charleston headquarters.
Currently, WMI is based in the back of a shopping center at 2049 Savannah Highway, occupying what used to be the storage area and loading docks of a Food Lion. There, an army of volunteers helps assemble filtration systems to be sent around the world in shipping containers.
Greene says his organization signed "a very agreeable five-year lease" in January 2005 with Seacoast Church, which owns the building and has a branch in the front side of the former supermarket, with the understanding that WMI would move out if the church needed the space. Seven-and-a-half years later, the church plans to move its youth program into the back of the building, and Greene has until the end of August to move out.
WMI was outgrowing its 10,000-square-foot space anyway, and Greene says he was looking for 20,000 to 25,000 square feet. What he found was the 43,000-square-foot Building 1605, at 1150 Kinzer St. in North Charleston. Coming from the northern entrance to the Navy Yard on Virginia Avenue, it is the first warehouse on the left.
The building was built in 1942, and it will need to be upgraded to include office space. It also needs new windows, doors, electrical wiring, and sprinklers, not to mention a fresh coat of paint. During the renovation, the organization will move its office to a temporary home inside the 7 Storehouse Row building at the Navy Yard.
Greene says WMI has secured a two-year lease with S.C. Public Railways, which owns the building, at a rate of $2.50 per square foot. He will be able to deduct the cost of any improvements on the building from the rent, and the charity will also be able to sublease any space it does not use. Greene says numerous local people and businesses have either donated materials and services or provided deep discounts for the renovations, including Charleston Water System, Glenn Keyes Architects, Live Oak Consultants, Pete McKellar of Harbor Contracting LLC, and Summerville electrical contractor John Gaither. The German company SolarWorld has also donated 400 solar panels to help power the building.
"Water Missions gets in the news when there's a disaster," Greene says. "With the flooding in Peru [in April], we had a country program in Peru before the flooding, so we sent a lot of equipment down to respond to that flooding. But what we are aware of is that, while a major disaster like an earthquake, flooding, or a tsunami makes the news, every day is a disaster for people that we really work with on a day-to-day basis."
Several other companies have recently expanded or moved into the Navy Yard, according to developers at the Noisette Company:
• Charleston Mattress will stay in the 10 Storehouse Row building (2120 Noisette Blvd.), but it will move from a 330-square-foot showroom to a 1,600-square-foot space. The mattresses are built just three miles from the showroom in a factory off of Rivers Avenue.
• Deloitte Consulting, a financial services company with 45,000 professionals in subsidiaries worldwide, outgrew its office space at the Lowcountry Innovation Center (1535 Hobby St.) and moved around the corner to 10 Storehouse Row. Deloitte specializes in audit, financial advisory, tax, and consulting services.
• Five Financial recently moved into 10 Storehouse Row. The company provides advisement for mortgages, debt management, insurance, emergency funds, and retirement savings.
• Global Logistics Consulting recently moved in to a 1,500-square-foot space at 7 Storehouse Row (1360 Truxtun Ave.). GLC is a freight logistics company that works in ocean, air, rail, and truck transportation, as well as warehousing and documentation.
• Maga Design Group is moving into 10 Storehouse Row. The company specializes in infographics and has done projects for Pepsi, National Geographic, iRobot, and several government and military clients including the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and Department of Homeland Security.