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Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities

Welcome to the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Livable Communities. The Riley Center houses programs of academic study, research and community service. While the Riley Center has served the College of Charleston and the greater Charleston community since 1978, the renaming of the Center in 2010 reflects a more applied and committed focus to enhancing urban life in the Charleston area.

The Riley Center is committed to forging connections between the campus and the broader community. It focuses on sustaining the legacy of Mayor Riley through programs and projects directed at various aspects of developing and maintaining livable communities in urban, suburban, and rural context. The Center carries out its mission by assisting in connecting community needs with faculty and student research interests, facilitating the attainment and administration of grants, providing expertise and assistance to public and nonprofit organizations, and supporting several academic degrees. The goal of fostering livable communities builds off current expertise among College faculty and helps to foster new areas of strength.

For more information on the Vision, Mission, and Services offered by the Riley Center, please visit our About Us page.

For more information on Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., please click here.

Interested in earning a graduate degree in community planning, policy, and design?  The College is launching a new urban design MA degree program in Fall 2017.  It will be a unique program, blending architecture and urban design studio courses with classes in public policy, infrastructure planning, architectural history, and real estate.  Graduates will be valuable contributors to any given development company, city government, or design firm.  More information can be found here.

Riley Center Fellows

Former Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

Joe Riley served over ten terms as Mayor of the City of Charleston, from 1975-2016.  He graduated from the Citadel in 1964 and USC Law in 1967, and then served in the S.C. House of Representatives from 1968 to 1974.  In his time as Mayor, Charleston transformed from a decaying urban center to a top cultural destination.  He is known for his revolutionary redevelopment projects, which he carefully crafted to add to the overall quality of life in the city.  He diffused racial tensions by working closely with the African-American community, and appointing the city's first black police chief, Reuben Greenberg.  The crisis leadership that he demonstrated after Hurricane Hugo in 1989 gained national praise, with many admiring him getting the city quickly cleaned up and running.  He has developed a robust tourism economy for the city, in addition to securing the renowned Spoleto Art Festival.  

Riley is currently working on a plan to build the International Museum of African-American History, a $75 million project scheduled to open in 2018.  He has returned to the Citadel as a professor of American Government and Public Policy, and currently is a valued fellow for The Riley Center.  

William E. Tomes

Bill Tomes is a Fellow at the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston and is the former Director of Governmental Research and Service at the Institute for Public Service and Policy Research at USC. Through his consulting firm, Bill works with public and non-profit organizations throughout South Carolina.

Bill has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Human Resources.  Over the past 30 years, Bill has worked as an organizational development consultant specializing in both the private and public sectors in the United States and Canada.  He has conducted training programs and written book chapters and articles on various human resource and governance topics.  Bill currently serves on the faculty of the Local Government Leadership Institute, the Non-Profit Leadership Institute at Francis Marion University, and the Institute of Government for County Officials.

Jon Pierce

Jon holds a Ph.D. in Political Science with a concentration in public administration from the University of Tennessee and Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science from Appalachian State University.  He has worked with state, local and non-profit agencies across the Southeast for over 35 years as a university-based facilitator, consultant and trainer. Dr. Pierce has assisted a large number of organizations in the design and conduct of strategic planning and goal-setting efforts.  He has facilitated in excess of 700 sessions with the policy boards of governmental, non-profit, and community organizations. Dr. Pierce is recognized as an authority on state and local government in South Carolina.

Dr. Pierce retired from full-time service with the University of South Carolina in July 2009.  He retired as the Director of Governmental Services for the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Public Service and Policy Research.  He held the faculty rank of Research Associate Professor and taught in the joint MPA programs at USC, Clemson, and the College of Charleston. Upon his retirement he was granted the title of Senior Fellow with the Institute.  In 2015 he was granted status as a Fellow with The Riley Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston.

Prior to joining the faculty of the Institute for Public Service & Policy Research in 1986, he served as Director of the Governmental Services Institute and the Office of Professional Development and Community Education of Northern Kentucky University and as Executive Director of the Appalachian Regional Bureau of Government at Appalachian State University.

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Current and Ongoing Projects

Charleston Fire Department Strategic Plan: The Riley Center is working with the Charleston Fire Dept. to assist them in obtaining community feedback and incorporating it into their department plan.

Charleston Police Department- Department of Justice COPS grant: The Riley Center just completed working on a Department of Justice grant with the CPD to examine and strengthen their efforts in community outreach and youth engagement in particular.  The Center conducted an analysis of Camp Hope and Friday Night Lights for the CPD as part of this project. 

South Carolina Community Loan Fund – Healthy Food Initiative: The Riley Center has been working with the SCCLF to evaluate the programs they have developed to address the lack of healthy foods available in low-income areas. Through a Kresge foundation grant, the SCCLF has implemented a number of initiatives, including building grocery stores in food deserts, awarding grant money to entrepreneurs trying to start businesses increasing access to healthy food, and providing technical assistance to those who are applying for loans relating to food access.  

Boeing Farm-to-School Initiative: A statewide effort that builds and maintains school based gardens in order to connect students with healthy, fresh foods.  The program provides incentives and instruction to teachers, food service workers, and other school personnel tying classroom STEM lessons to working in the garden. Through work with dozens of non-profits and other institutions of higher education, thousands of children across the state now have access to nutritious food. 

Illumination Project: The Illumination project is working to build better community relationships between the Charleston community and the Charleston Police Department.

SCCCMA: The Riley Center manages all professional development and other activities for the South Carolina City and County Management Association (SCCCMA). The Center hosts two conferences annually for roughly 180 city and county managers.

Local Government Leadership Institute: In collaboration with Francis Marion University, Coastal Carolina University and the Lake City Partnership, the Riley Center has developed and is implementing a program to train and develop local government leaders. 

Know2: The Riley Center became involved with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education’s (CHE) Know2 project, developing and administering survey and research tools to gather public perception of higher education in lower income regions. 

Charleston Tri-County Region Housing Blueprint: The Charleston Trident Association of Realtors and the South Carolina Community Loan Fund contacted the Riley Center to develop a "scorecard" type model to specifically look at housing issues in the Tri-County region.  The key issues/questions addressed in the blueprint are:  Density, Cost, Transportation, and Construction.

2015 Report on the Status of Women in SC: Worked with the Center for Women to create a report examining the status of women in SC and the issues that need to be addressed.

Local Government Professional Development: The Riley Center works with a variety of organizations including the Municipal Association of SC, the SC Association of Counties and the SC Clerks to Council Association in planning and facilitating training and professional development for local government officials across the state.

Lowcountry Graduate Center: The Riley Center has conducted a variety of studies for the Lowcountry Graduate Center to determine higher education needs in the tri-county area.