The University of South Carolina School of Law’s new home will not open until 2017, but the construction reached a milestone Thursday and USC leaders took time to celebrate.

Construction crews placed a 40-foot steel beam weighing more than 700 pounds at the highest point of the partially completed building, which occupies a square bounded by Gervais, Bull, Senate and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia.

The placement of the beam was part of a topping off ceremony, marking the occasion of the highest point in the structural phase of the building being reached. Construction workers placed a small Leyland Cypress tree on the beam, symbolizing the bringing of life to the building. Those attending the ceremony were invited to sign the beam.

USC President Harris Pastides praised the dedication of the workers in reaching the milestone.

“It’s been fascinating for all of us to watch USC’s new School of Law’s structural rise,” Pastides said. “Hard hats off to these tenacious workers who, even during one of the hottest summers on record, have provided the expertise needed to get each steel beam in place.”

The $80 million building is scheduled to open in 2017, which is the law school’s 150th anniversary year.

School of Law Dean Robert Wilcox said seeing the new building take form with a beam placed at its highest point is a reminder of how the building promises to further transform law education at the university.

“Already it is transforming the Gervais Street corridor. When finished, the building will just as surely open new opportunities for our students to study law in the best possible environment. We are incredibly excited to see the project reach this milestone toward completion,” Wilcox said.

Brittany Grabski