A highly visible building at the gateway to downtown Beaufort should soon be in the hands of the University of South Carolina Beaufort, a healthy sign for both the university and the city.
It is a signal of the university's long-term commitment to its Historic Beaufort Campus, and a symbol of the many ways a university can enhance the city's vitality.
The building in Bellamy Curve on Carteret Street was most recently used as the headquarters for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Beaufort-Jasper Higher Education Commission announced last month it would buy the 5,028-square-foot building to use for classroom space, offices, community meetings and an individual art studio space for students. It could hold non-credit classes for the community, such as those offered through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
USCB must be supported as a key player if the development and redevelopment of downtown Beaufort is to produce the tax base the city needs and property values residents want.
USCB has a fledgling arts-oriented dream for the campus, which offers great hope. One need look no farther than Savannah to see what potential this offers for Beaufort. The purchase of the former chamber building is reminiscent of how so many buildings and neighborhoods in downtown Savannah have been revitalized by the presence of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
But this energy is a two-way street. The university, the city and its residents must work together to see any of this potential come to life in Beaufort.
Chancellor Jane Upshaw credits the local higher education commission for its exceptional "strategic vision for how the university can develop in conjunction with the local community."
Chamber of commerce president Carlotta Ungaro said, "The continued commitment of the University of South Carolina Beaufort to the development of downtown Beaufort is significant and encouraging."
The building purchase will be worthwhile if others help the university turn promise into reality.