Office Park Road could be a good fit for USCB

Hilton Head Island Town Council should consider the site for a new campus and stand ready to defend its decision.

info@islandpacket.comDecember 5, 2013 

Hilton Head Town Council's consideration of Office Park Road as the site for a University of South Carolina Beaufort campus is worthy of further discussion.

At a recent workshop, council members agreed that the Office Park location on the south end of the island is a better fit for the school's hospitality management program than the Coligny Circle area where council had previously considered locating it. (They ultimately backed off the Coligny plan after residents raised concerns about increased traffic.)

Office Park Road is a better fit because:

  • It's a corridor of blight where many vacant office buildings sit in disrepair. The town and its residents win if this unappealing area is rehabilitated. Proceeds from a tax-increment finance district are also available to help pay for some of the much-needed work.

  • Office Park Road offers lots of space, meaning a campus expansion at some point in the future would be possible. That wasn't the case in the more-constrained Coligny site. For this reason, university officials are supporting an Office Park Road site.

  • It returns the school to the island. USCB has been absent from Hilton Head since 2004, when it closed its satellite campus on Office Park Road and moved to its current Hilton Head Gateway Campus off U.S. 278 in greater Bluffton. The hustle and bustle of campus life will add an air of vibrancy to the island. And residents will gain educational opportunities as well. The proposed campus would house courses for residents and visitors through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

  • Students too will benefit. Many of the school's 200 hospitality students have internships at Hilton Head restaurants and hotels. It will be convenient for them to also have classes on the island.

    But council members should stand ready for the inevitable onslaught of criticism. Nearby Sea Pines residents are certain to raise concerns about increased traffic, just as South Forest Beach residents did.

    However, this is a manageable problem. Town staff -- with outside help if necessary -- can certainly find a solution to properly manage traffic so that residents are not inconvenienced and that congestion around the Sea Pines circle is controlled.

    And because school would be out during the summer months, residents won't have to grapple with the combination of student traffic and tourist traffic during the high season.

    Council should keep in mind that challenges will exist with any site chosen. The important thing is to show leadership by finding solutions for the problems, not backing off of a worthy plan.

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