Deal could settle bankruptcy of project involving Trump Jr.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A failed deal to redevelop the former Charleston Naval Hospital pitched by Donald Trump Jr. lands in bankruptcy court this week and the settlement could cost county taxpayers $33 million to buy the building and 24 acres of land.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge in Charleston could decide Monday whether to let Charleston County officials buy the property rather than honor a long-term lease, The Post and Courier of Charleston reports . The county had signed a 25-year lease to become anchor tenant in the project in which Trump Jr. was a minority investor. The lease carried an annual cost starting at $1.2 million. The county ended up pulling out of the deal in 2016, saying the building wasn't ready.

The property was foreclosed upon last year.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey remembered listening as Trump Jr., Utah lawyer Doug Durbano and Mount Pleasant resident Jeremy Blackburn proposed an ambitious urban redevelopment project.

Trump Jr. was a principal of the company that would redevelop the former hospital, Summey said.

"They paraded in the guys who were buying it — Trump, Blackburn and Durbano," remembered former Councilman Ed Astle. "Other council people were falling all over (Trump). He was the bait."

Days before the city decided in 2014 to sell the property for $5 million to Chicora Gardens LLC, the Trump organization described Donald Trump Jr. as a minority investor in the project — not the developer or general partner. Trump told The Post and Courier last year he had a 10 percent investment in the project but no day-to-day involvement and no control or voting rights.

Summey said at the time that the main appeal for him to sell the property was getting someone to build a grocery store in a part of town that had struggled with retailers leaving after the Navy base closed.

Charleston County Council members were told Trump and Durbano were the company principals in a 2014 memo from county Attorney Joe Dawson.

Trump and Blackburn did not respond to requests for comment.

The Post and Courier reports that Blackburn oversaw the project, has been attending bankruptcy court hearings to represent the Chicora group, and accepted Charleston County's $33 million settlement offer on the group's behalf.

Durbano said Charleston County was getting "an excellent buy" for $33 million.

"A formerly dilapidated and economically depressed area will now come back to life," he said.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com

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