C of C has plan it can build on

The third floor of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building would be completed under the College of Charleston’s 20-year plan.

Brad Nettles

Science and math have come out winners in the College of Charleston's 20-year campus building plan.

The college has completed a draft of the campus master plan, which would bring the landlocked, downtown campus an additional 863,000 square feet of space without significantly increasing the school's footprint, said Steve Osborne, executive vice president for business affairs. The plan provides more of a guide for future campus building projects than a hard-and-fast time line for completing them, he said. And it's based on keeping undergraduate enrollment at 10,000 or fewer students, something that is important to residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the college.

Mike Auerbach, dean of the college's School of Sciences and Mathematics, said he's pleased the plan includes three major projects for math and science programs: finishing the third floor of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building, renovating the Rita Liddy Hollings Science Center and eventually building an additional science facility.

"We've been able to establish that our needs are critical and have been critical for a long time," Auerbach said.

The college offers science programs that are intense, hands-on and require a lot of laboratory space, he said. And they are expanding. For example, the college has about 1,000 biology majors, he said.

The plan includes nine new buildings, some of which might be combined; eight renovations; and eight building expansions. It takes into account that college students learn differently than they did in the past, Osborne said. To accommodate them, the college must provide more group study space and dramatically improve educational technology.

He also said the college spent the past year working with consultants to develop the plan. The group met with representatives from many campus and community groups to learn what was important to them. Much of what was learned was incorporated into the plan, he said.

Osborne said he can't estimate the cost of the plan because most projects are not yet clearly defined. And the order of projects could be shifted if priorities change or if good opportunities arise for acquiring adjacent property.

With no specific start times, he said phases one and two of the plan could be complete in the next 10 years.

The plan, he said, is based on the college continuing to enroll about 10,000 or fewer undergraduate students at the downtown campus.

"This plan does not envision any significant growth of undergraduate enrollment on the peninsula," he said. The college, however, might increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students at its North Campus near Charleston International Airport.

Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings, who is head of the city's 16-member Town-Gown Committee, said he hasn't seen the plan but knows the college met with neighborhood residents to develop it.

He is, however, disappointed it doesn't include building more on-campus housing.

"That's the single most important thing" for neighborhood residents, he said.

The plan includes only adding one new dorm with 350 beds. Many neighborhood residents prefer students live on campus, where they get more supervision, he said. "It's better for students because they get the entire college experience, and it takes the pressure off the neighborhoods."

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.