- The University of South Carolina Beaufort plans to purchase a large home at 802 Carteret St. and convert it to housing for 16 students by next year, making it the first university-owned student residence on its Historic Beaufort Campus.
USCB, which also has a campus in Bluffton, has a contract on the privately owned property near Carteret's intersection with Duke Street and hopes to close on the deal in coming weeks, vice chancellor for finance Earle Holley said.
Student housing is important to the institution's plans to increase enrollment and foster a fledgling four-year studio arts degree program, Chancellor Jane Upshaw said.
USCB has grown by an average of 11 percent each year since it was accredited to grant baccalaureate degrees in 2004. It now serves about 1,600 students on its two campuses. With the opening of two new student housing units this fall, the south campus will be able to house as many as 500 students.
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The university received approval in 2009 to offer the studio arts degree and has renovated the Beaufort campus to support fine arts education.
About 25 students participate in the program now, Upshaw said.
Officials expect a need for more housing in Beaufort as the university recruits more art students, who will spend most of their class time on the campus in northern Beaufort County.
"If we're going to be successful on that campus, we must have student housing," Holley said.
At least one nearby resident told city officials he worries about putting student housing so close to the Old Commons neighborhood, Mayor Billy Keyserling said.
But the Old Commons Neighborhood Association has not taken a position on the matter, and some consider it an appropriate use of a house facing a commercial street, association member Maxine Lutz said.
"We want to work with USCB to have minimum impact on our neighborhood, but I don't know how we can avoid something like this right on Carteret Street," Lutz said. "We're watching what the university does, and if there's proposed intrusion, we'll step forward."
More investment is planned for the Beaufort campus -- about $10 million during the next five years, Holley said. That would include a new student housing facility on land it already owns, he said.
The institution hopes eventually to house about 175 students on its Beaufort campus, but that number likely will be reached in increments.
USCB also is considering plans to converting a home on Prince Street that houses the university's Office of Advancement -- known as the Barnwell House -- into student apartments, Holley said.
As they plan, USCB officials are working with the city's Office of Civic Investment, a group of consultants helping staff create a vision for the city's neighborhoods, Holley said."Parking is an issue now and will be an issue when the university brings more students to the campus," Holley said. "We're working with the city to make sure parking is not a problem."