The University of South Carolina plans to build a new $200 million health-care campus for its School of Medicine, asking for $50 million from state lawmakers to jump-start the project.
The 39-year-old school would move from its site next to the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center to 14 acres that USC owns near Palmetto Health Richland hospital, USC chief operating officer Ed Walton said after a state House panel hearing over the university’s budget request.
Plans call for a four-building campus that would include a new medical school, a life-science facility, a private medical-research office and a parking garage, said Russ Meekins, director of the USC Foundation, a funding arm of the university. Two more buildings could be added and shared by USC and the hospital, Meekins said.
USC and the hospital’s parent company, Palmetto Health, will be partners, already having agreed to merge their medical practices.
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“This kind of opportunity would support our long-term goal to more closely align medical providers across the health-care spectrum and provide greater access to clinical research for our patients to continue to meet the needs of our community,” said Palmetto Health chief executive Chuck Beaman.
The USC School of Medicine’s lease with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for the Garners Ferry Road site ends in 2030. The Garners Ferry building needs $75 million in improvements, university officials said, adding rent is expected to increase to $7.5 million a year under a new lease from the current $1.
Opening a new school of medicine with additional research space is more practical — and will provide a development boost, university officials said.
USC researchers and the hospital would share research and equipment. They already share the hospital's advanced equipment, including an MRI machine purchased with the help of a USC graduate, Meekins said.
Meanwhile, Greenville developer Bob Hughes might be offering USC an alternate site for the School of Medicine and its more than 300 students. Hughes is in early talks with the USC Foundation about the possibility of donating some land on his Bull Street residential-and-retail development, which abuts Harden Street near the hospital, Meekins said.
Asks for $46.3 million for other projects
USC has seen a construction boom since president Harris Pastides took office in 2008, building more than $600 million in academic and athletics projects.
More work is planned, including renovating Carolina Coliseum into a second student union. That project could cost about $50 million to $60 million, Pastides said. The student union would be on the coliseum’s concourse level, Walton said. The renovated building, which houses Gamecock basketball practice facilities and offices, could include student services, such as financial-aid offices, in the basement, once used for classrooms.
The coliseum renovation needs approval from USC trustees. It approved, it will be completed about 2020, Walton said.
USC did not request state money for the coliseum renovation this year. However, the state’s flagship university did ask for $46.3 million in added state money for its Columbia campus for other projects, besides the new med school.
The other requests include additional professors and career counselors at USC’s popular business school and Honors College as well as building renovations and additions.
The largest request, other than the health-care campus, is $21.5 million to renovate and modernize the building now housing the law school, one of the largest classroom buildings on campus. The university received $3.5 million from the state last year for the work. USC plans to spend another $20 million renovating the building into science lab space.
The law school is moving to a new $80 million building in 2017.
State Rep. Jim Merrill, the Berkeley Republican who chairs the House higher education budget panel, said he does not know how many of USC’s requests will make the House’s final budget proposal. With $1.2 billion in new state money to spend this year, House budget writers still are hearing requests from other state colleges and agencies.
USC has not decided what to do if state lawmakers do not provide the $50 million requested for the health-care campus in the budget, Pastides said.
New campus would open in two phases
The new $200 million health-care campus in Columbia is a top priority for USC, officials said. It would open in two phases.
The first 130,000-square-foot building, slated to open in 2020 at a cost of $80 million, would include classrooms and other teaching facilities. USC would pay for that building with $30 million in gifts and money from city and county government funds, and the $50 million in state money requested.
The second phase would include a 165,000-square-foot research facility, opening in 2023, with space for the school’s other clinical health programs. The $120 million price tag would be paid with cash and gifts, and by borrowing. No other state money would be requested, USC’s Walton said.
USC opened a medical school in Greenville in 2012 next to Greenville Memorial Hospital.
Pastides said the new Columbia campus would not compete with the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the state’s other main medical school.
MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said her school wants to know more about USC’s proposal, adding, “It’s important that we and our legislators clearly understand how investing our limited state resources in this venture will positively impact our state’s health and knowledge economy.”
USC state budget requests
$50 million to help pay for relocating and building a new School of Medicine
$46.3 million for other projects on its Columbia campus