Downtown Greenville is a perfect learning laboratory for a new program in urban and regional studies, USC Upstate Chancellor Tom Moore said Monday while announcing the school’s new downtown location.

“All you have to do is look out the window,” Moore said from a conference room on the second floor of an office building at 501 River St., part of the 5,600 square feet the school will lease.

The minimal monthly rental fee USC Upstate will pay will be put into a fund to create the Hughes Collaborative Speaker Series, which will bring national leaders to Greenville to talk about issues facing the city and region.

Having a downtown Greenville presence has been a goal for USC Upstate and Moore for years. A plan was floated in 2012 to locate a campus on city-owned property on Mayberry Street near the Kroc Center and a proposed city park, but went nowhere.

“It is an opportunity for us to engage in the vitality of life in downtown Greenville,” Moore said. “We are a metropolitan university and we use community-based research to make the lives of residents better. What a perfect living laboratory.”

Moore said USC Upstate plans no changes to the programs currently housed at the University Center Greenville, a consortium of seven colleges and universities that offer programs at the former McAlister Square shopping mall on Pleasantburg Drive. USC Upstate offers bachelor’s degree completion and master’s degrees there.

USCUpstate_Downtown-MapA new program in urban and regional studies is currently in the approval process and would be primarily housed in Greenville. Moore said in two years, he expects to have 60 students pursuing majors in the program.

The urban and regional studies program would be unique in South Carolina, said Dr. Rob McCormick, associate dean of USC Upstate’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Furman University and the College of Charleston have urban and regional planning programs but they are a collection of courses from other fields of study.

“No one in South Carolina will have the number of courses dedicated to the discipline this program will have. We’ll have full-time faculty,” he said.

The program will focus on issues such as transportation, housing and sustainability of cities and neighborhoods big and small, he said.

“How do we handle I-85? How do we handle communities down the street? What kind of housing mix do we want? What is the impact of certain types of development on neighborhoods? What kind of development do we need to thrive and bring excitement to the city?” he said.

Moore said classes would be held in the River Street location in late summer or early fall.

Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investments, which owns the building, said having USC Upstate downtown benefits Greenville because it brings youthful creativity and curiosity here. Some of the students may decide to stay in Greenville to work, giving back to the community, Hughes said.

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