Continuing its push for a University of South Carolina Beaufort campus on Office Park Road, the Town of Hilton Head Island has purchased two buildings and is planning to buy two more.
The town paid $1,675,000 for a 5 1/2-acre lot -- known as Carolina Office Park -- with two commercial buildings.
The new campus would include USCB's hospitality-management degree program and a branch for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which provides continuing-education courses, according to USCB vice chancellor Lynn McGee.
Town Council also authorized condemnation of the nearby Kiawah Building, if necessary to acquire it.
The Kiawah and a Time Warner Cable building on the corner of Office Park Road and Pope Avenue are the final pieces needed for the campus, according to town manager Steve Riley.
The town must acquire the Kiawah and the Time Warner buildings within six months to keep its deal with the owners of Carolina Office Park, Riley said. If negotiations with the Kiawah's owners fail, the town could condemn the building and take it through eminent domain.
"We haven't been able to come to an agreement with the owner" of the Kiawah, Riley said. "Now, we're authorized to use condemnation, but we still plan on continuing the conversation."
Once acquired, the town plans to demolish the buildings to make way for USCB's satellite campus.
Town officials have said they hope the campus will revitalize a rundown area of largely vacant office buildings.
"This would inject some new life into what are seriously underutilized buildings," Riley said.
Plans to put the campus on Office Park Road came after the town rejected a similar proposal that would have put the campus in the Coligny area. Town Council abandoned that plan last fall after residents and business owners raised concerns about increased traffic.
Councilman George Williams, who represents the south end of the island, said he's heard less grumbling from residents about the Office Park Road location than with Coligny.
"There's a few people that are concerned about the traffic -- as I am, quite frankly," Williams said. "But there will be a traffic study, and we can mitigate traffic based on that. We're still a ways out."
McGee said the Office Park Road location would offer better parking than Coligny, "which is already stressed to serve the beach park and businesses in that area."
The town plans to pay for building the campus with revenue from a 10-year extension of a special tax district in the area. Money from the current district, set to expire in December, was used to fund Tuesday's land purchase.
The town's partners in the tax district -- the Beaufort County Council, the Board of Education and Hilton Head Public Service District -- have said they will agree to the extension, forgoing additional tax revenue for the next 10 years.
The extension would generate $50 million for the USCB campus and other projects, including a 1.5-mile park trail linking the redeveloped Shelter Cove Towne Centre with the beach and a new park; a children's museum; beach parking; and road improvements along Pope Avenue, according to the town.
Follow reporter Dan Burley at twitter.com/IPBG_Dan.