Nexton: From Timber Forest, to a Thriving Community at the Lowcountry's New Geographic Center

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Initially, it was difficult for many people to envision. After all, the map showed only thousands of acres of timber tracts surrounding Summerville, but Dexter Rumsey saw it coming. He knew the tract which would ultimately become Cane Bay Plantation on Hwy 176 was under contract, he understood proximity to Interstate 26 offered access and visibility, and he realized there would be demand for land to develop in the years to come.

Now, everyone can see the success of the Nexton community, located between I-26 and Hwy 176. Thousands of homes, dozens of businesses, schools and medical facilities — Nexton has indeed become the “next town” its name signifies, with room for future growth. And commercial real estate leader NAI Charleston has been part of it from the beginning, active in the sale of land for neighborhoods, banks, restaurants and other amenities that serve those who live there.

“At first, people didn’t understand it. It was a timber tract with very poor access,” says Rumsey, partner at NAI Charleston, who found the land when searching for large development sites. “There were only service roads accessing the Sheep Island tract, but I knew what the Cane Bay developer was planning and thought, ‘Well if that project is in the works on Hwy 176, then this tract with interstate frontage is a no-brainer.’ The rest is history.”

The result was a $21 million deal with Crescent Resources, who worked with Berkeley County to record a Development Agreement with entitlements for “The Parks of Berkeley” on the Sheep Island tract. MeadWestvaco was the original seller but ultimately purchased the property back from Crescent and commenced with an aggressive campaign of building roads and installing utilities for what would become the Nexton community.

NAI Charleston’s land brokerage continued beyond the original sale to Crescent, later representing WestRock (formerly MeadWestvaco) in parcel sales totaling over $47 million in closed deals at Nexton, with more still in the works. “The land was originally affordable, and you had the infrastructure in place,” says Thomas Boulware, Partner and Broker-in-Charge at NAI Charleston. “Being right off I-26, with 17-A and highways 176 and 78, you had a lot of access. The foresight of Berkeley County to adopt a Development Agreement allowing the necessary infrastructure and zoning expedited the entire process. We were able to create a place and a community for people looking to move into our market.” NAI Charleston facilitated the land sale for Nexton Square on 17-A and for the future Nexton Town Center between Brighton Park Blvd. and Sigma Drive. Today, the Nexton development continues to grow under the ownership of Newland Communities with plans for years to come.


Residential and retail

With the Atlantic Ocean to the east and protected lands to the north and south, such as the Francis Marion National Forest and ACE Basin, the growth of the Charleston area has always been limited. With Mount Pleasant approaching capacity and outer West Ashley’s drainage issues, growth has been funneled in one direction — up the I-26 corridor, toward Summerville and beyond.

“It’s the most logical direction for growth,” continues Rumsey. “In a pure development model, you follow the transportation route, and we only have a semicircle. We have developers asking us all about land for homes and industrial uses from Ridgeville to St. George and I-95, including areas I never thought would have received that attention.”

That growth, fueled by industrial linchpins like Volvo in Ridgeville and DHL in St. George, has helped make Nexton more centralized. With new residents comes a demand for more supporting businesses — like Carolina Ale House, Rainbow Child Care, CPM Federal Credit Union, Cambria Hotel, a self-storage facility, and other businesses that NAI Charleston has helped introduce to the community.

“As residential starts filling in, retail is going to follow,” says Will Sherrod, a veteran broker at NAI Charleston. “You've got large developers that are looking at parcels close to the interstate — not only the Harris Teeter site that has been public knowledge, but there's also another proposed grocery group looking in the same area. There are multiple convenience store groups that are interested in parcels along Nexton Parkway on both sides of the interstate.” NAI Charleston currently represents the owner of approximately ±100-acres planned for mixed-use development along Nexton Parkway/North Maple, south of I-26.

Although much of Nexton’s commercial development has clustered around U.S. 17, Nexton Parkway offers the potential for further expansion. “It's probably going to be smarter and not as congested as North Main Street,” Sherrod says. “I think it will be a welcome shift. You'll see some of these larger retailers potentially explore the Nexton Parkway side. Post-COVID-19, we’ll have to see what big boxes are looking at in terms of expansion, but I think you’ll see continued growth of retail along that side of the interstate.”

Access is key. The Nexton interchange on I-26, which opened in 2018, was in Crescent’s plans from the start. “They worked hand-in-hand with Berkeley County to adopt a development plan that laid out a long-term set of guidelines for commercial, multifamily, and medical hubs within those 4,500 acres,” Rumsey says. The Nexton Parkway interchange on I-26 was on the master plan back in 2006. Ultimately, it came to fruition 12 years later, reducing congestion on Hwy 17-A and providing direct access to entitled land with utilities.


Accessibility and affordability

The owners of Carolina Ale House saw the potential as well. When they decided to expand to Nexton, they wanted a site with parking that could accommodate 150 cars. “They said, ‘This is going to be the hottest restaurant we have in our portfolio of restaurants throughout the Carolinas,’” Rumsey recalls. NAI Charleston brokered the land for $2.1 million and later sold the Starbucks next door and an adjacent ±1-acre parcel to the same owner. This parcel is currently offered for ground lease as a future bank site.

It was a similar situation for First Citizens Bank, which had searched for two years to find the right spot in the area. When they found Nexton, they bought not just the land for their branch, but an entire 12-acre parcel which sits across the street from a proposed Harris Teeter. “We've had a tremendous amount of interest in it,” says David Grubbs, partner at NAI Charleston. “They've been very methodical about the development of the rest of the 12 acres because they want complementary and compatible uses.”

Jim Rozier, late former Berkeley County supervisor, had a vision to create a commercial base to reduce taxes on homeowners, and he was deeply involved in multiple development agreements for the area. The collaboration of the county, the accessibility of the land, and the opportunities yielded from potential land entitlements allowed Nexton to become a reality. The development has come a long way from that initial $21 million land deal, resulting in a vibrant mixed-use community at the center of the Lowcountry.

Contact NAI Charleston at (843) 720-4944 about any of their available properties at Nexton, or visit their website at for further information.