Education

Could USC build new medical school at Bull Street development?

USC School of Medicine in Columbia.
USC School of Medicine in Columbia.

University of South Carolina trustees Friday will consider building a new medical school campus on donated land in the Bull Street development.

USC trustee Eddie Floyd said building the $200 million campus on about 16 acres at the former state mental hospital site would give the state’s flagship university room to grow in that pocket of downtown Columbia.

Greenville developer Bob Hughes would donate the land, the Florence surgeon said.

USC also was considering building the new school on 14 acres it already owns near Palmetto Health Richland hospital, which partners with USC.

That land can remain open for future development if trustees approve building on the Bull Street property, which abuts Harden Street near the hospital, Floyd said.

“We want to build a health campus. We want to build not just a medical school. As time goes on, if we’ve got extra land, we can put a nursing school, pharmacy school – all of these – out there, too,” Floyd said. “If you’ve got enough land, and the need comes up to change, you’ve got a place to go.”

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called the possibility of a new public health campus “a win all around to downtown Columbia and the university.”

Earlier this year, USC unsuccessfully lobbied S.C. lawmakers for $50 million to jump-start construction of the new campus.

Plans for the new campus include a new medical school, a life-science facility, a private medical-research office and a parking garage.

USC plans to move the school from its aging site, next to the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The USC School of Medicine’s lease with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for the Garners Ferry Road site ends in 2030.

USC officials have said the Garners Ferry building needs $75 million in improvements and that rent — now $1 a year — is expected to increase to $7.5 million a year under a new lease.

USC president Harris Pastides hinted Wednesday that a “major announcement” about a new medical school location would come soon. But USC officials would not say which location had been chosen.

The trustees’ agenda for their Friday meeting includes consideration of a “Bull Street Property Preliminary Land Acquisition Project.”

City leaders originally sold the public on redeveloping the Bull Street campus in part on the idea of putting the state-owned property on the city’s tax rolls.

Columbia has committed nearly $100 million in public money to the Bull Street property, including $30 million to build the Columbia Fireflies’ baseball stadium.

But if USC’s medical school builds on the site, 16 of its 181 acres would remain tax exempt.

City Councilman Howard Duvall said Thursday he hopes the city and USC can reach a financial agreement soon that covers the cost of services that the city provides around the school’s sprawling downtown campus.

“We have talked to them and hope to have something firm soon,” Duvall said.

Efforts to reach Hughes Thursday were unsuccessful.

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

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