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TRUSTEES: Housing high NOBTS priority

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Sixteen two-bedroom apartments at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will be ready for student families early this summer — just in time for the 2010-11 school year.

Seminary trustees approved the new apartments during their fall meeting in October 2009 and construction began on the $2.7 million project in November. Thanks to good weather and a dedicated construction crew, the project remains on schedule for a June completion. During their spring meeting April 14, seminary trustees toured the construction site to see the progress firsthand.

“To see these two-bedroom apartments going up is a big relief,” trustee chairman Craig Campbell said. “This is the number one need — the kind of housing that is needed to replace the States Apartments. We just say ‘Thanks’ to all the donors, and to the students, we say ‘Come.'”

Replacing student housing units has been a top priority for trustees since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the States Apartments were destroyed. The seminary lost a total of 92 two-bedroom apartments due to the storm and its flooding of the city.

“We are about to add 16 apartments, but this still leaves a big gap,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley told trustees after the tour. “More student housing remains one of our greatest needs.”

During the past three years, a number of students have started each semester in temporary housing waiting for campus housing to become available. The 16 units will ease some of the strain, but the fix will be temporary. More apartments are needed to keep pace with enrollment growth on the campus.

The trustees approved a motion concerning a proposed third, eight-apartment building in October 2009. In a rare move, the full board authorized the trustee officers to approve the construction of the third building should the required funds become available within the next year. If construction begins soon, Kelley expects the costs for a third building to be between $800,000 and $1.4 million.

Seminary leaders want to get the project underway before construction begins on some of the city’s largest Katrina recovery projects to date, including the federally funded construction of a large teaching hospital. Labor and material costs could increase 35 to 40 percent after construction begins on the hospital and other large projects.

When the board voted to approve the plan in October, Illinois trustee Thomas Clore challenged his fellow trustees to make others aware of the need for the third building. Through the efforts of the trustees, some money has been raised toward its construction.

“We are praying that we would be able to have the finances needed for another eight units very quickly,” Campbell said. Campbell remains hopeful that enough funding will come through to begin construction on the third building this summer.

Even if the seminary is able to build the additional eight apartments, it will still be 68 units short of pre-Katrina levels. With this ongoing need in mind, Kelley encouraged the board to continue to pray for more apartments.

“All of this doesn’t come close to replacing the States Apartments, but it does help us with an immediate need,” Campbell said. Replacing the other lost apartments remains on the top of his priority list. Campbell said he believes added the additional apartments will poise the seminary for significant enrollment growth over the coming years.
For more information about New Orleans Seminary’s plans for replacing the States Apartments, visit http://www.nobts.edu/Development/NewStudentHousing.html.