Student housing calls for ongoing cooperation

The University of South Carolina Beaufort's plans to create student housing on its Historic Beaufort Campus should assuage fears that hefty investment in the newer Hilton Head Gateway Campus was a sign the school would flee the city.

But if those fears have been eased, they should not be forgotten, least of all by Beaufortonians who might harbor misgivings about the house next door becoming a dorm. After all, city residents cannot bemoan their abandonment one day, then play "not-in-my-back-yard" the next.

For the record, that hasn't happened yet on any large scale. However, with the expansion of the studio arts program that will eventually anchor the north campus comes inevitable tension.

Representatives of the Old Commons Neighborhood Association -- many of whom live near the large house at 802 Carteret St. that USCB plans to purchase and convert to living quarters for 16 students -- have not staked out a position on student housing.

"We're watching what the university does, and if there's proposed intrusion, we'll step forward," said association member Maxine Lutz.

As well they should, given that student housing often is associated with noise, traffic and parking problems.

The project on Carteret Street won't fill the university's housing needs for long. About 25 students are in the studio-arts program now, according to Chancellor Jane Upshaw, and if it is to be distinctive, it must draw many more from across the region, if not the country.

As a result, student housing will be essential to its success, and USCB envisions enough of it to accommodate about 175 students on the Historic Beaufort campus. It goes without saying the school should be sensitive to residents' needs and desires, but neither can residents forget USCB's $10 million investment in this program or the commitment to the city it represents.

The spirit of cooperation that made the studio arts program possible in the first place must endure. A few tolerable inconveniences are better alternatives than a lifeless or abandoned campus near the heart of the city.