Plans for USC law school to go before design board Thursday

ccope@thestate.comSeptember 11, 2013 

This is an aerial view of USC's new law school on Senate Street and law offices on Bull Street.

COURTESY OF USC

— A design proposal for the new University of South Carolina School of Law will go before Columbia’s Design Development Review Commission for feedback Thursday.

The design would have a “strong civic and urban presence on Gervais Street,” according to the project’s evaluation sheet by city staff – meaning it is located in the heart of the state’s law community.

A decision on the plan will be made later. The project also requires state approval.

The new 187,500-square-foot, three-story school is expected to open by 2016. It will cost about $80 million and is on the block surrounded by Gervais, Pickens, Senate and Bull streets, with a courtyard in the middle.

It is also in proximity to the State House and the state Supreme Court.

Students can finish their class on constitutional law in the morning and walk two blocks to hear a case being argued on constitutional law in the state Supreme Court, said former state Attorney General Henry MAcMaster, a senior adviser at USC for development and fundraising.

The area also is close to dozens of law firms on Main Street and other surrounding streets, he said.

“It will be a magnificent addition to the city,” McMaster said.

Efforts to reach the dean of the law school were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Some buildings on the site, including Workshop Theatre, will be torn down to allow construction to take place.

Other buildings – such as National Register of Historic Places properties, the Taylor House and the Horry-Guignard House – will be kept.

The Taylor House once served as the Columbia Art Museum and the proposed plans for the building include removing wings that were added during that time.

Current plans for the Horry-Guignard House include the construction of a wall or landscape hedge at the corner of the property and some hardscaping in the front of the building.

“The character of the downtown district is that buildings should be more urban,” said John Fellows, a Columbia planning administrator with a background in urban design.

In addition to the law school, an informational presentation will be given on a separate project, a three-story law office proposed for the corner of Laurel and Bull streets.

Designs of offices for the Mickle and Bass law firm will be presented for a lot that has long been vacant, according to documents submitted to the city.

The building, at 1716 Bull St., will be a story taller than surrounding houses, but the architect’s studies show that the elevations are similar to heights of other buildings throughout the district.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope

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