"This opens up housing space for us in the most in-demand housing unit we have, which is the two-bedroom apartment," NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said regarding the Dec. 6 action that clears the final hurdle for the project. "We are thrilled about it. It will give more families a chance to be here and experience seminary and the life of the community."
The new building, which will include eight two-bedroom apartments for student families, will be built on Providence Place in an open space near the intersection of Mirabeau Street. The location is near many of the other family housing units and the main seminary recreational areas.
"It's a great location," Kelley said. "It is right at the heart of everything on campus. It is within walking distance for all classes."
In October, the full board approved the construction of a new $1.7 million building but did not settle on a location. At the time, seminary officials identified two potential locations for the new housing -- a site near the back of campus and the Providence Place site. The site at the back of campus had long been a part of the seminary master plan; however, administrators believed the Providence Place site could be a better location. A study confirmed the site's feasibility and was submitted to the trustees for approval.
The building, named Grace Apartments, will be built debt-free thanks to a donation from a private family foundation based in Louisiana. NOBTS has received approximately $1 million in advance. The foundation will send the remaining funds in early 2012.
Kelley said that the new apartments represent a significant milestone for the seminary. The school lost 92 two-bedroom apartments in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Oaks Apartments, which were under construction during the storm, added 48 new two-bedroom apartments in 2006 -- one year after the storm. Since the completion of The Oaks, the seminary has added 16 additional apartments. The Grace Apartments project will bring the total post-Katrina construction total to 72 new two-bedroom apartments.
Kelley told the trustees that, with current enrollment growth trends, eight more apartments will be needed in the coming years. He said that the Providence Place site has room for another eight-bedroom apartment building if funds become available.
Construction will begin Feb. 1 of next year and is scheduled to be complete by Aug. 1 in time for the 2012 fall semester.
In his report to the executive board, Kelley said enrollment numbers and total credit hours taken are up compared to this time last year. Enrollment projections for the coming semester indicate additional growth, he said, noting that applications are at or near all-time highs in a number of key programs including the on-campus master of divinity and master of arts in marriage and family counseling programs.
Giving has been another bright spot during the fall semester. In addition to the $1.7 million gift for the new apartments, a number of significant gifts have been given for scholarships, and the Providence Fund, the seminary's annual giving program, exceeded its fundraising goal.
In a brief report Provost Steve Lemke updated trustees on the progress of Internet course development at NOBTS. To date the seminary faculty has developed 127 Internet courses and 52 additional courses are nearing completion. By August 2012, the seminary will have significant portions of the bachelor of arts, master of arts in Christian education and the master of divinity degree courses available in an online format, Lemke said.
The Internet courses also will help in the development of additional hybrid courses. Hybrids courses combine the convenience and schedule flexibility of Internet classes with classroom meeting and interaction with professors and other students. The classes meet a limited number of times, with much of the course content delivered and completed online. Lemke said the classes are popular with students who commute or have busy work schedules.
The new Internet courses will allow the seminary to create a hybrid option for most of the core curriculum courses in the seminary's degree plans.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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