The University of South Carolina is set to return to Hilton Head Island after officials with the school and town cleared the way for a small hospitality campus last week.
USC’s board of trustees and the Hilton Head Planning Commission signed off on the plan in separate meetings Dec. 15 and Dec 16. Hilton Head has pledged to use tax increment financing (TIF) to fund most of the $24.5 project that will house the school. USCB will contribute $2.5 million.
The school had a branch on Hilton Head from 1973 until it opened the “Gateway” campus near Bluffton in 2002. “Now the sense is: we need to go back,” Vice Chancellor for Advancement and External Affairs Lynn McGee told South Carolina Radio Network. “We need to be a part of that community.”
Although several more steps remain in the approval process, USCB officials hope to begin construction in Spring 2017. The opening is scheduled for August 2018.
The new center will position the school’s hospitality management program closer to the hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses located on the island, McGee said. “What it gives us is a living, learning laboratory right there,” she said. “And the students are infused and engaged in those top internationally-known facilities, managers and leaders.”
There is strong opposition to the plan among residents of the nearby Sea Pines community. The Hilton Head Island Packet newspaper reports seven critics of the project spoke at last week’s meeting, arguing the new campus would only worsen traffic on the island’s southern end.