Coligny plans with USCB campus opposed by some Hilton Head residents

dburley@islandpacket.comSeptember 26, 2013 

coligny

In this artist's rendering of the Coligny District improvement, the proposed USCB Hospitality building is seen from the courtyard with the proposed three-level parking garage at left.

SUBMITTED — rendering

A proposal to build a campus for the University of South Carolina Beaufort on Hilton Head Island continues to anger some residents who fear increased traffic.

Three plans for redeveloping the Coligny District, two of which included a site for USCB's hospitality-management program, were presented Thursday to the town's Public Facilities Committee. The committee forwarded all three plans to Town Council for consideration but without a recommendation on which one it should choose.

Town officials said building the campus would spur redevelopment for the aging beachside business district.

"For 15 years we've been talking about this," town manager Steve Riley said of redeveloping the area. "How do you transform Coligny into something that's year-round?

"USCB transforms Coligny into something that -- more than just parking or a park -- puts pressure on property owners to spruce up tired units in the area."

Some Forest Beach residents, however, believe the campus would only increase traffic near Pope Avenue and Coligny Circle.

"We don't need additional attractions like the college," resident Chuck Nelson said. "That's just going to bring in additional traffic."

The town is considering three redevelopment plans, all of which include a park with a children's museum, a playground and at least 1.5 acres of green space.

The main differences in the plans are as follows:

  • One rendering shows a two-story building with classrooms and teaching labs, a three-story parking garage with more than 600 spaces and nearly 12,000 square feet of retail space in front of the garage off Pope Avenue.
  • One shows the campus but without the retail space.
  • The third does not include the campus but has a parking lot with more than 400 spaces.
Campus proponents argued that nearby resorts and businesses provide a natural classroom for hospitality students.

"This gives the students a chance to live and work in the environment that they are studying," said Charlie Calvert, USCB professor of hospitality management.

Calvert estimated about 300 students would attend classes on the campus. About 170 hospitality-management students are currently enrolled at the college's Hilton Head Gateway campus on U.S. 278 near Bluffton.

That influx of students, along with proposed changes to the Coligny Circle roundabout, however, concerns Andy Klepchick, a real estate broker on the island's south end. He foresees traffic jams.

"You can imagine all the tourists in one lane trying to leave on a Saturday," Klepchick said. "They already don't know what direction they're turning."

But Alan Grogono, a Wexford Plantation resident and former college professor, said students would add stability to the area's rental housing market during the school year, when there are fewer tourists on the island.

"The students would stay for longer periods in the rentals you now bemoan the turnover of every few days," he said.

Redeveloping the Coligny area has long been a priority for the town, which faces a December 2014 deadline to commit an estimated $6.4 million to the district. The money is revenue from a tax-increment finance district.

Riley said Wednesday the project would total more than $20 million and take several years to complete.

The development plans go before Town Council on Oct. 15 for further consideration.

Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.

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