In their quest to attract more business and industry to the Lowcountry, local leaders point out the area colleges and universities.
Charleston City Council just gave them something additional to tout.
Besides the Medical University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, The Citadel, Charleston Southern University, the Charleston School of Law and Trident Technical College, 20 colleges have programs here.
One of the most interesting and promising is the American College of the Building Arts (ACBA). And thanks to a vote Tuesday by Charleston City Council, that college will have a permanent home on peninsula Charleston where it can grow and flourish.
Some council members had expressed concerns about whether the city would receive enough in return for selling the historic Trolley Barn property to the school for $10. And Councilman James Lewis questioned whether it would benefit people who live near the site, at 628 Meeting Street.
The answers are "yes" and "yes."
ACBA, the only college in the world to offer the four-year Bachelor in Applied Science in Building Arts degree, is uniquely suited to Charleston, where historic buildings are restored and treasured. Students study traditional craftsmanship with iron, wood and trowel - craftsmanship that was used when Charleston's 18th and 19th century houses and buildings were being constructed.
The college's courses of instruction prepare students for careers in architecture, design, preservation and construction - all of which can relate to historic preservation.
As for the neighborhood, the ACBA will restore the trolley barn, which has fallen into disrepair. Part of the property will be sold to a development company that plans to use it for dormitory, office and business space.
And the college has pledged to provide an annual scholarship to a resident of the Charleston Housing Authority, which has housing in the vicinity.
ACBA currently has an enrollment of 37, but with a new home designed specifically to accommodate it, school officials expect that number to grow.
Then there are the benefits that are trickier to quantify - jobs, community service, diversity and intellectual stimulation.
Colleges have a significant impact on the community's prosperity. According to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, The Citadel, the College of Charleston, MUSC and Trident Tech together inject $1.9 billion directly into the local economy.
ACBA is tiny by comparison, but it too enhances the economy, and should be able to do more as it grows in its new building.
The school has been using the old City Jail on Magazine Street. As part of the deal approved by City Council, the same developer, Parallel Capital, will renovate it, perhaps as an office geared for the technical industry.
Charleston and the American College of the Building Arts make good partners.
City Council was wise to see that synergy and facilitate a move that will help the ACBA thrive.
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