The University of South Carolina is getting in the game amid a flurry of private, resort-style student housing developments near campus with a six-story, 919-bed apartment complex of its own.
The housing complex – complete with a pool, volleyball court, fitness center and other high-end amenities – will be located in what is now a parking lot behind the Carolina Coliseum. A dining facility, classrooms and parking garage will be built on an adjoining block north of Devine Street behind the new Moore School of Business as part of the project.
The complex will compete with sprawling private student housing developments like The Woodlands along Bluff Road, as well as three private student housing projects planned near the school’s downtown Columbia campus.
“The really good thing about this is the university has set the bar very high,” said Fred Delk, executive director of the Columbia Development Corp., which encourages and guides development in the Vista and other areas of downtown. “It’s high density and really good quality and it will set the pace for future student residential development.”
The new housing is part of the expansion of USC’s campus on the west side of Assembly Street toward the Congaree River. The area is home to the school’s Innovista research campus and the new $106 million business school that opens next year.
USC officials wouldn’t comment on the project, saying they are in confidential negotiations with a private developer to build the complex and that the school’s board of trustees hasn’t approved the project. But plans filed with the city of Columbia will be reviewed Thursday night by the Design Development Review Commission.
“The project is of a fast-track nature,” documents filed with the city say, with construction set to begin in March.
The complex would be configured in four-, two- and one-bedroom apartments, as well as studio apartments, documents show.
But the USC project will have significant competition coming online next year or at the same time:
• An 800-bed student housing project in the renovated 21-story Palmetto Center tower and a small 250-bed complex along Pulaski Street are set to open in August of 2014.
• A project by the Manhattan-based Park 7 Group on land owned by Columbia developer Ben Arnold is planned for the corner of Blossom and Huger streets – two blocks away from the USC project. It is scheduled to open in August 2015 and has received preliminary approval from the DDRC, which will review landscaping and other issues Thursday.
Delk said industry studies show that downtown can absorb 3,000 new beds for students. The four projects, including USC’s, would bring the total planned beds to about 2,500.
“And I know developers have more plans for other sites,” Delk said.
USC also hopes to attract back some of the 22,000 students who currently live in a dozen off-campus housing complexes already built. The off-campus complexes’ nearly 6,900 beds are 99 percent occupied, according to a presentation made to the board of trustees in September.
The school also asked developers to include academic and dining space in the new facility to help ease the space crunch from adding 6,000 students during the past decade. Plans also include some retail space.
The developer would pay for building the new complex and USC would supply tenants, officials told trustees in September. The school and developers would share profits generated from the housing. USC would lease classroom space from the developer.
The apartment complexes will take over some of the parking lots used by students and people who attend events at the Carolina Coliseum and Colonial Life Arena. More of the parking area will go to housing in the future with the expected expansion of the Greek Village across Blossom Street.
USC officials did not respond to questions about parking for events at the Colonial Life Arena, the coliseum and the Koger Center as the parking lots are developed, but have said they believe that enough garage and surface parking is available to service those venues.
Staff writer Andrew Shain contributed.