It’s only natural that the College of Charleston – located in a city renowned for the breathtaking beauty of its waterways – would someday have a presence on Charleston Harbor. That day has arrived.
As part of the ongoing renovation of academic buildings on the College’s main campus, several classrooms, labs and offices in the College of Charleston’s School of Sciences and Mathematics have been relocated to the eastern shore of the Charleston peninsula.
The College has leased 45,000 square feet of space at Harbor Walk, a commercial and retail center located in the Aquarium Wharf area. The building is situated along the Cooper River, adjacent to the S.C. Aquarium.
Located less than one mile from the College’s main campus, the leased space is required to support the renovation of the Rita Hollings Science Center, Physicians Auditorium and the planned renovation of the Simons Center for the Arts.
Harbor Walk is divided into two sections – Harbor Walk East and Harbor Walk West. Harbor Walk West, formerly an IMAX theater, will house classrooms, labs, and faculty offices for the Department of Biology and the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Harbor Walk East, the building closest to the Cooper River, will house the Department of Computer Science, a few biology faculty offices, as well as a biology lab.
To support academic and administrative operations at Harbor Walk, the College has developed a special website that addresses important topics such as class schedules, transportation, parking and security.
Amenities available to the campus community at Harbor Walk include Wi-Fi, charging stations for mobile devices, bicycle racks and an on-demand convenience store that offers healthy and convenient food options.
Mike Auerbach, dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics, said the search for a space close enough to campus and large enough to meet the College’s needs proved lengthy and difficult.
It turned out that Harbor Walk was the only viable option for the College. It just so happens to be in a magnificent location and well suited for academic use. It’s within walking and biking distance of campus; a free CARTA shuttle serving the Aquarium parking garage and the main campus is already in place and the waterfront views are a wonderful marketing tool.
“It’s a beautiful space, said Auerbach. “I think our students are going to love taking classes out there.”
The College also will benefit from having a presence along a premier stretch of Charleston waterfront that is frequented by tourists and locals alike. In addition to the S.C. Aquarium, other notable neighbors include the Charleston Maritime Center, the South Carolina State Ports Authority and the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square.
Auerbach said the potential to explore academic-related partnerships with these and other nearby entities is truly exciting. “I think there are a variety of synergies that can grow out of this,” he said.
The College’s lease at Harbor Walk is for seven years with an option to renew for an additional five years.
The renovation that took place to make the space suitable for academic and research functions – including the infrastructure to support science labs – was top-notch, Auerbach said, adding that many people deserve credit for getting the approvals and financing in place and organizing the logistics of the move.
One example of the seamlessness of the building’s conversion is the former IMAX theater, which was transformed into two 90-person lecture halls. “It bears no resemblance to what it once was,” Auerbach said.
One of the largest components of the move was the relocation of the Department of Computer Science from the J.C. Long Building. About 20 faculty and staff from the department began moving to the new location in June 2014, said department chair Chris Starr.
As Charleston’s tech sector continues to grow in size and national visibility, the region has been dubbed “Silicon Harbor.” That nickname takes on added significance now that the College’s computer science program – a key element in the city’s burgeoning tech industry – has a major presence on Charleston Harbor, Starr said.
Being centrally located in Charleston’s thriving digital corridor will help elevate the quality and reputation of the computer science program. The move also brings together the computer science department’s teaching, research and administrative functions in one space.
In many tech companies, office space is configured to maximize personal interactions and impromptu conversations. The size and layout of the new location at Harbor Walk will provide computer science students and faculty with similar opportunities to interact and collaborate.
“Our productivity and our creativity is enhanced when we are all interacting together,” Starr said.
While the computer science department’s move is expected to be long-term, Auerbach said the biology and physics functions that have moved to Harbor Walk would likely remain only until the planned renovation of the Simons Center for the Arts gets underway. Once that work begins, biology and physics will return to main campus and some School of the Arts functions would move to Harbor Walk, he said.