Benedict to open new chapter with bookstore

Benedict College is set to build its first stand-alone bookstore.

The Columbia Planning Commission on Monday unanimously approved the two-story structure, to be located at the corner of Haskell Avenue and Oak Street. The location is adjacent to the school's Swinton Center.

School officials hope to begin construction of the $600,000 facility this month. Completion is set for August.

"We're a growing school and our facilities have to grow with us," Benedict spokeswoman Kymm Hunter said.

Enrollment at the historically African-American college reached 2,950 students this semester, up from 2,550 four years ago and near the peak of 3,005 reached in 2002.

The store will replace a cramped retail space in the Swinton Center. Presently, the space only has room for 17 people, store manager Maria Gonzalez said.

"And that includes my employees," she said.

During enrollment, students often have to wait in long lines to get into the store, Hunter said.

The new building will allow the vendor that owns and operates the facility - Nebraska Book Co., of Lincoln, Neb. - to expand services.

Gonzalez said she hopes to have gifts, clothing, snacks and a Starbucks with Wi-Fi on the first floor. Books and electronics would be sold on the second floor.

"It will really enhance what we can offer to our students," she said.

No square footage or design for the building was available.

In recent years Benedict has expanded its physical plant, refurbished parts of its campus, built a new football stadium and helped develop the neighborhood around the school with its landholdings.