The Daily Gamecock

Capital Renewal Plan sets $4.2 million for Benson building restoration

Building may be repurposed for academic space, says facilities


Benson School, a university-owned Bull Street building in need of repair, may soon be renovated and restored to its historic form, according to Tom Quasney, USC’s associate vice president for facilities.

Plans for the school are not yet set, but the university’s Capital Renewal Plan, which provides a timeline for completing a number of deferred maintenance projects on campus, set a $4.2 million price tag for the building’s renovation. The source of those funds has not yet been determined.

According to Ed Walton, USC’s chief financial officer, where that money would come from won’t be known until the project is brought to him or the university’s board of trustees.

The Renewal Plan slates the building for renovation in fiscal year 2013.

What would go in the facility, which currently houses the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, the College of Social Work’s Center for Childand Family Studies and the Benson Theatre, was also unclear.

The plans, said Quasney, are still being set, but Benson could eventually provide more much-needed academic or staff space.

“Academic space is near/at capacity,” Quasney wrote in an email, “so we are looking at every way possible to maximize what we have in our current facility inventory.”

That space, said Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Helen Doerpinghaus, could come from constructing a new classroom building or repurposing other buildings on campus to hold classes and labs, but working with existing structures is often the preferable choice.

“Repurposing a building can be expensive, but you’re not having to purchase land, and it’s sometimes easier to get through the planning process,” she said.

“Use what we have to the max — that’s the first thing we do — and build what we need.”

Over the next few months, Facilities will discuss plans with other departments and stakeholders in the project before a more finalized plan is ready in February or March of next year.

Among those groups are the departments currently housed in the building. Officials in those programs had not yet heard of the plans when they were contacted Wednesday.

According to Cynthia Flynn, interim director of the Center for Child and Family Studies, this is not the first time plans for Benson had been bandied about; she had heard of plans in the past, ranging from renovation to demolition.

The prevailing thought, she said, has shifted more recently to support historic restoration over demolition. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October 2009.

In either case, she said, “we’re prepared to move in the not-too-distant future.”

In the meantime, the building will receive a new roof, which is a concern as it currently has with issues with leaking.

The project is set to “start any day now,” Quasney said, and will be funded with $200,000 from a one-time $11 million fund that USC received this year from the General Assembly for renovations.

A total of $3.4 million from that sum has been allocated to repair the roofs of 10 buildings around campus.

It’s the first in what appears a series of upcoming changes and maintenance to the Benson School, which was built in the early 1950s for African-American students during segregation.

“We’ve got to do something with it; we know that,” Quasney said. “It needs a lot of love.”


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