The University of South Carolina’s private fundraising arm has made another “defensive” land buy in downtown Columbia, its director says.
The move protects USC students and its downtown Columbia campus from potentially harmful future development, USC Development Foundation director Russ Meekins said.
The foundation will pay $1.1 million to buy a quarter-acre plot at the northwest corner of Main and Greene streets, currently home to the S.C. Bookstore.
For now, USC has no plans for the property, Meekins said. But, he added, its owners wanted to sell, and buying it now ensures the next owner will not build a convenience store or apartment tower.
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“If you go to some campuses around the country, you’ll see convenience stores with Budweiser and Newport signs over the windows and all that stuff,” Meekins said. “We want healthy, wholesome options for the university’s students and to foster that type of atmosphere around campus.”
Eventually, USC could build on the property or allow a developer to build there while still controlling the land, Meekins said. The S.C. Bookstore’s lease does not end until 2024, he said.
The USC Foundation has made defensive buys before.
In December 2002, the foundation purchased the Greene Street lot north of the Thirsty Fellow and southwest of Colonial Life Arena. “The idea was that somewhere down the road, the university would grow in that direction, so we’d buy it and hold it,” Meekins said.
In 2002, the foundation also purchased land at Gervais and Bull streets, where the new USC School of Law is being built.
“It’s just to help the university,” Meekins said. “Everything we do is kind of in furtherance of their mission.”