Former Bridges building to become cybersecurity education center

From staff reports

The building known as the Bridges school building at 1100 Boundary St. – or the former home of the Boys & Girls Club – will become a center for cybersecurity education, under a plan conceived by the City, the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB), and the South Coast Cyber Center.

The City bought the building for $2.3 million from Bridges Preparatory School, which completed its move to a new campus on Robert Smalls Parkway in August 2021. The City closed on its purchase in late December.

“We’ve been discussing this purchase since 2019,” City Manager Bill Prokop said in a release. “Our primary interest is to see courses and programs in cybersecurity taught there. We believe this will be an economic driver for the City and bring more students to Beaufort.”

The City is one of the partners in the South Coast Cyber Center, which launched in 2019 to capitalize on the great need for a cybersecurity workforce throughout the United States. Its other stakeholders include USCB and Technical College of the Lowcountry, which are aiming to achieve Center of Academic Excellence designations from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. Both schools have added courses and faculty in cybersecurity.

The 24,000-square-foot Bridges building sits on 1.75 acres close to the USCB campus. “We felt it was a very fair purchase price, considering the location. The building is in good condition,” Prokop said. The purchase is being financed with state funding of $450,000 (a budget earmark sponsored by State Rep. Shannon Erickson), county funding of $500,000, and the balance through a bond. The building includes classrooms, meeting spaces, and a gym.

“The acquisition of the Bridges building is an important investment for Beaufort’s future,” said Mayor Stephen Murray, who is on the board of the South Coast Cyber Center. “Expanding access to education in emerging career fields is critically necessary to provide our kids and working adults the opportunity to live and thrive in our region. I’m so grateful to our partners at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, Beaufort County, Representative Shannon Erickson, and the South Coast Cyber Center for their leadership on this exciting project.”

USCB is undertaking a facilities master plan, Prokop said, so a more detailed plan for the Bridges building will emerge from that. The school will lease the building from the City, he said. The South Coast Cyber Center is planning on moving into the building in the near future, he added.

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