Downtown Lancaster needed an anchor. The University of South Carolina Lancaster needed space to store and showcase its large collection of Catawba pottery and artifacts. A partnership was born.
Plans for the Native American Studies Center began when Lancaster municipal officials met with community groups to discuss cultural tourism and historical assets as catalysts for downtown revitalization. They brought faculty in on the conversations. The faculty shared that they were in desperate need of more room for the half-million Catawba artifacts-the world's largest Catawba collection-in the school's possession, as well as space for a growing number of students attending USCL.
The City of Lancaster purchased a long-empty furniture store on Main Street using funds raised from hospitality taxes and a Duke Energy grant. Officials worked with faculty from USCL's Native American Studies department to design classrooms, labs and galleries in the renovated space. The city improved existing parking and created additional parking areas. Working with regional tourism and preservation groups, the city then developed a marketing plan to promote the new center.
Locating a cultural attraction downtown has been a boon for tourism in Lancaster. Even better, there are more college students spending time-and dollars-in the city center. The project has been so successful that officials are working with USCL to relocate more of the University's departments downtown. Workshops, festivals, seminars and other public events are in the works as well to draw more people to the Native American Studies Center.
A once-empty building is now a cultural asset, and downtown Lancaster is once again the center of conversation.