CLEMSON – Clemson University today was granted $10.3 million in matching state funds that will enhance the university’s commitment to a new North Charleston research campus.
The South Carolina Bond Act Review Committee awarded the match – through the state’s Research Universities Infrastructure Act – following action last week by the North Charleston City Council to give Clemson 80 acres of land, valued at $14.5 million, on the former Charleston Navy Base. The university will use the site to establish research space for the Charleston-based Clemson University Restoration Institute (CURI). The property includes Warren E. Lasch Conservation Center, site of the H.L. Hunley submarine.
Transfer of the Lasch Conservation Center to Clemson was endorsed last week by The Hunley Commission, the state body charged with oversight of the Civil War submarine’s welfare.
Clemson will use the matching funds to upgrade the Lasch Center, demolish unusable buildings, improve infrastructure and landscaping at the site, and build the first facility on the research campus to support research conducted through CURI.
CURI was established in 2004 as the first formal academic organization focused on the restoration economy, created to bring together a wide range of experts and researchers. The restoration economy is based on the revitalization of existing areas through new development, using a variety of disciplines, from health to hydrology, from materials engineering to historic preservation.
The goal of CURI is to drive economic growth by creating, developing and fostering restoration industries and technology.
CURI will have design and planning studios in the Clemson Architecture Center planned for historic downtown Charleston, but will locate its research and development laboratories and facilities at the North Charleston campus. The R&D component can serve as a magnet for public-private partnerships, private developments, spinoff companies and other research and development agencies.
“In many ways, the restoration project is modeled after the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, which has generated more than $180 million in public and private commitments,” said Clemson President James F. Barker. “The partnership of university research, government incentives and private investment is a proven formula for developing knowledge-based industry clusters, creating high-paying jobs and fostering innovation that improves quality of life.”
The first phase of the project—renovation and equipment upgrades of the Lasch Center—will begin immediately. Phase I will bring 90 full-time jobs and an annual payroll estimated at $5.3 million, or an overall impact of $9.5 million annually for the local economy. When the entire university research park is built, the total number of jobs that will be created is estimated to be between 2,000 and 4,750, the annual payroll to be between $125.8 million and $286.3 million, and the annual impact to South Carolina of new full-time jobs to be between $226 million and $515 million. When buildings are constructed on leased land, the potential for tax revenue is estimated at between $1,750,000 and $4,130,000.
CURI will bridge materials manufacturing, complex assembly and successful mixed land use, for which North Charleston is known, with the attributes of Charleston, the nation’s leading laboratory for cultural and structural preservation.
“Clemson University is committed to improving the lives of South Carolinians through teaching, research and outreach,” Barker said. “This extension of Clemson’s presence and resources in the Lowcountry supports that enduring and historical ambition.”
Long-term plans call for construction of other buildings to house commercial tenants, historic preservation and restoration partner facilities and other members of the restoration research community.
“The research center will create incubator businesses that will provide excellent jobs for this area and the state,” North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said. “Short term, it will benefit the community, but the greater benefit will be long term. By building a high-technology infrastructure within our community, it assures we will be on the cutting edge of technology for the future and will bring in jobs that will be beneficial to the children of today and tomorrow.”
“The Hunley has been on the forefront of technology for a span of two centuries,” said State Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission. “Clemson’s expertise has fostered innovative restoration technologies that have been instrumental in the Hunley conservation effort. Strategically aligning the state-of-the-art Hunley lab with the Clemson University Restoration Institute will empower our state to compete in the global knowledge-based economy of the 21st century. The Hunley legacy will continue to link South Carolina’s past with our future.”
South Carolina House Speaker Robert Harrell also had praise for the project.
“This is a great opportunity for Clemson to show how science and business can work together to expand our economy and provide new jobs in our state,” Harrell said. “South Carolina must position itself as a viable player in this changing economy. The economic engine that the Clemson University Restoration Institute will provide is a big step in the right direction.”
The university official in charge of the initiative says that’s exactly what CURI can do for the state.
“The Clemson University Restoration Institute will foster an expanding knowledge base of practical methods, techniques and solutions to urban restoration,” said CURI director Jan Schach, dean of Clemson’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “We will bring together expertise in various disciplines to tackle the challenges of restoration of historic, ecological and urban infrastructure.”
Specific emphasis areas include historic preservation, use of advanced materials in design and construction, urban ecology and health environments.