Education

USC to begin phasing in massive, $240 million Campus Village dormitory complex

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Photographs from the John Hensel Collection at USC's Caroliniana Library show how the city has changed since 1950.
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Photographs from the John Hensel Collection at USC's Caroliniana Library show how the city has changed since 1950.

The University of South Carolina will begin phasing in its massive Campus Village dormitory complex in downtown Columbia by winter 2020, the school’s board of trustees decided Friday.

The first phase of the project — which makes up half the total project and carries a price tag of $240 million — will include four buildings that house 1,800 students on nine acres of USC-owned property, according to board documents. To make space, USC will be tearing down Cliff Apartments, spokesman Jeff Stensland said.

The project was originally envisioned as a public-private partnership where a company would build, own and pay for the entire project. However, that has changed. USC will own and pay for the property, which will be built and managed by Charleston-based Greystar, board documents show.

“One of the things that has remained constant is the scope of the project,” said campus architect Derrick Gruner.

Campus Village will be built on an 18-acre site bordered by Pickens, Heyward and Sumter streets.

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Greystar currently operates several other apartment complexes in Columbia, including Greene Crossing Apartments and Vista Towers Apartments, according to the company’s website.

USC will pay for the project using housing revenue bonds, said USC’s Chief Operating Officer Ed Walton.

“What’s guaranteed to pay this debt is the housing revenue from this project,” Walton said.

“One of the tenets of this project is it has to break even quick and then turn a profit for the university to invest in other housing, which this project does,” Walton said.

The university currently has $560 million worth of debt, and this project would add $240 million to that, according to board documents.

However, Walton thinks USC has a relatively low amount of debt given USC’s size, and the school could actually afford to take on more if it needed to.

“I’m confident in the debt,” Walton said. “We never missed a payment since 1801,” when the school opened.

USC will be paying on the debt until 2050, board documents show. The school projects the buildings, made from steel and brick, will outlast that, Gruner said.

“We believe, properly maintained, that these buildings will last 60 to 80 years,” Gruner said.

The project is in response to a growing shortage of beds on campus for students, Gruner said. It also aims to add 900 parking spaces, some of which will be off-site and serviced using USC’s shuttle system, Gruner said.

The idea of a campus village is more than just a name. The project actually seeks to be an all-in-one community for college students. It will include study rooms, a coffee shop, laundry, bike storage, lounges and a 26,600-square-foot dining hall, which is bigger than the one in Russell House student center, Gruner said.

“The idea of this is we can make this enough of a holistic village; students won’t have to leave to get groceries at Publix,’ Gruner said.

Phase 1 of the project is set to finish in Fall 2022. There is no timeline for breaking ground on the other two phases of the project, Stensland said.

When all the phases are complete, 3750 students can be housed

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