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Innovista's takeoff grounded

Given the downturn in private development that is hitting downtown Columbia and the Midlands, the pressure is on for USC to become a driver for the Midlands economy.

But the lending chill by banks has affected the university as well.

The first private building in USC’s Innovista research campus is still on hold as a Michigan developer tries to secure financing. The building, dubbed Horizon II, was to be completed in 2006 by another developer, who since has moved on.

Construction of two publicly funded buildings for research — Horizon I and Discovery I — is complete. But the university is about $40 million short of the cost to outfit the two buildings with equipment and furniture for researchers. And, given state budget cuts, the likelihood of USC coming up with that $40 million anytime soon is slim.

The bright spot is research.

USC’s endowed chairs are bringing in grants, most recently a $12.5 million U.S. Department of Energy grant for alternative energy research — the largest research grant in school history.

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INNOVISTA INTERRUPTED

Innovista — USC’s research campus — was sold as an engine for the Midlands economy. Thus far, two Innovista buildings have been built but remain empty. Meanwhile, a third building, expected to open in 2006, awaits financing before construction can begin.

Horizon I: The $39.5 million, publicly financed, five-story research building at Blossom and Main streets is built. But USC needs $20 million more to outfit it for researchers.

Discovery I: The $34 million, publicly financed, five-story research building on Greene Street is built. But USC needs $20 million more to outfit it.

Horizon II: The planned $20 million, privately financed research building, at Assembly and Blossom streets, has a tenant — a mainframe computing consortium — but its developer is struggling to find financing.

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