Press and Media

USC board approves new Bull Street medical school

Originally published September 16, 2016 at http://www.thestate.com/news/local/education/article102199322.html

By Avery G. Wilks

awilks@thestate.com

A plan to build a new $200 million campus for the University of South Carolina’s medical school in downtown Columbia’s Bull Street residential-and-retail development received preliminary approval Friday from the school’s trustees.

USC’s trustees unanimously approved placing the planned four-building campus on 16 acres donated by Greenville developer Bob Hughes.

“We’re positioning Carolina to be one of the best health sciences universities in the Southeast and in the country, and we need to keep pace with our facilities,” University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides said.

Plans for the new campus – to be across Harden Street from Palmetto Health Richland hospital – include a new medical school building, a life-science facility, a private medical-research office and a parking garage.

USC’s medical school plans to move from its aging home next to the Dorn Veterans Medical Center. Its lease there ends in 2030.

Earlier this year, USC unsuccessfully lobbied state lawmakers for $50 million to jump-start the project. USC plans to ask lawmakers again for $50 million to help pay for the new campus.

However, South Carolina’s other medical school — Charleston’s MUSC — signaled skepticism with the proposal.

Spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said MUSC wants to know more about the expansion, “especially in an environment of dwindling state resources for higher education funding, and with the current shortage of training and residence opportunities for those already progressing through health sciences and medicine programs in our state.”

The proposed new campus would open in two phases.

The first is an $80 million, 130,000-square-foot medical school, slated to open in 2020.

The second is a $120 million, 165,000-square-foot science and labs building to house “basic sciences for the School of Medicine and research activities for other health disciplines,” according to a USC release. That building would open in 2023.

Pastides said USC’s other health science departments could move to the campus “way down the road.”

The new medical school campus is part of USC’s new health sciences initiative.

A recent study by USC’s Darla Moore School of Business found the health-care sector already employs one out of every eight Americans. The sector is expected to grow by up to 40 percent during the next decade, the study added.

South Carolina is expected to see an increase in health-sector jobs to 340,000 from 215,000 during that period. The health care and social assistance sectors are projected to be the largest employer in South Carolina in 2030, USC added.

USC expects the medical complex to create 1,700 construction jobs, up to 2,600 operation jobs and up to 1,200 new jobs through “research, commercialization, start-ups and clinical services.” USC added it expects the new campus will have an “eventual annual economic impact of up to $180 million with up to $9 million generated in tax revenue.”

In an emailed statement, Hughes said donating the land is “simply the right thing to do.”

The new campus will be a major economic catalyst, he added. “The university’s goals will benefit the entire state and we are excited to play a small part in their plan.”

The value of the donated land is unclear. Efforts to reach Hughes on Friday were unsuccessful.

USC School of Medicine dean Les Hall said he is thrilled with the plan. “This new campus will be a tremendous benefit to our students and will help meet the need for more health care providers in South Carolina, while also growing our state’s contributions to biomedical research.”