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William Carey rebuilds on Coast

William Carey University celebrated one of the biggest milestones in the university’s history when it dedicated its new Coast campus at Tradition, a planned community located in Harrison County at the intersection of Mississippi 67 and Highway 605/Tradition Parkway.

William Carey University celebrated one of the biggest milestones in the university’s history when it dedicated its new Coast campus at Tradition, a planned community located in Harrison County at the intersection of Mississippi 67 and Highway 605/Tradition Parkway.

First phase of new Tradition campus dedicated

 

Arguably no institution of higher learning anywhere took a harder hit from Hurricane Katrina than William Carey University (WCU), the private, Baptist-affiliated college. All three of its campuses — New Orleans, Hattiesburg and Gulfport — were impacted by the storm.

But, it was WCU’s Gulfport campus, overlooking the Gulf on Beach Boulevard, which took the storm’s full impact. Katrina devastated the campus, gutting its stately, old administration building that traced its roots back to the early 1900s, and generally leaving the 20-acre site untenable. All of the campus’ facilities would eventually be condemned.

It was a tough loss for the whole community. The site was originally the home to the Gulf Coast Military Academy, which opened in 1912. It opened as “William Carey on the Coast” in 1976 with roughly 300 students. Over the years, it grew, adding facilities, graduate and undergraduate programs and students (enrollment stood at approximately 800 at the time of Katrina, and the campus offered four residence halls totaling nearly 100 units).

The devastation, and the potential for future storms and escalating insurance rates, left WCU no choice but to look for a new site farther north and away from the water. 

“When I first viewed the destruction of the WCU Coast campus and the general devastation of the Coast, I, like many, felt that this is beyond restoration, that we are finished here,” said WCU president Dr. Tommy King. “But as I witnessed the indomitable spirit of Coast people and the determination of (late WCU president) Dr. Larry Kennedy, a sense of hope was born within me.”

On Aug. 19, nearly a full four years after Katrina, King’s hopes were realized.

WCU celebrated one of the biggest milestones in the university’s history when it dedicated its new Coast campus at Tradition, a planned community located in Harrison County at the intersection of Mississippi 67 and Highway 605/Tradition Parkway.

This also marked a significant milestone for Tradition, whose vision statement reads, “Tradition is a richly diverse community which aspires to achieve excellence in education, arts and culture, environmental stewardship, and health and wellness — leading to a vibrant, enduring quality of life for the community and the region.”

Brynn Joachim, vice president of sales and marketing at Tradition Properties Inc., said WCU-Tradition is a major step forward not just for Carey and Tradition, but also the entire region.

“Education is the key to economic development,” Joachim said. “WCU-Tradition is not only elevating the quality of learning for its students. It will help recruit other businesses to the Coast.”

The Aug. 19 dedication of WCU-Tradition opened phase one of development at the 30-acre site. An investment totaling $14 million, phase one consists of four buildings encompassing a total of 58,559 square feet. The facilities include:

• Administrative building — The main three-story administrative building houses offices as well as academic classrooms, labs, bookstore and student lounge.

• Academic building — The academic building includes a library, computer lab and classrooms.

• A security building and physical plant facility round out the campuses structures.

Nearly 700 students, both undergraduate and graduate, are expected to be on campus for the inaugural classes Aug. 24. (WCU-Coast’s enrollment fell to approximately 500 immediately after Katrina.) It will be a welcome new home for faculty, staff and students alike. Since Katrina, they have been located in 16 modular buildings at the devastated WCU-Coast campus in Gulfport. 

Landry and Lewis Architects of Hattiesburg executed WCU-Tradition’s design. Construction began on the Tradition campus in 2008. The general contractor was Hanco Corp., also of Hattiesburg, and the project manager was Robert Blevins.

 

 

The main three-story administrative building at William Carey University houses offices as well as academic classrooms, labs, bookstore and student lounge

The main three-story administrative building at William Carey University houses offices as well as academic classrooms, labs, bookstore and student lounge

Additional construction phases are planned for the future at WCU-Tradition, according to King. Those plans are still in their infancy.

 

 

“Our general plans for the Tradition campus is to secure an additional 20 acres and proceed with the construction of the next phase,” King said. “This will depend upon enrollment growth and the financial support of our friends.”

King added, “In viewing the beautiful new campus, I thank God that our hope has become reality.”

Tradition is also thankful, and looks forward to WCU-Tradition’s future growth. At full build-out, the 4,800-acre site will be home to more than 15,000 residential units, two million square feet of commercial development and 35,000-40,000 residents. The phased, $2-billion development will include the 314-acre New Urbanism community, The Village at Tradition, which is currently under construction, a 2,275-acre active adult community, a 1,121-acre all-ages golf community and 600-acre Town Center.

Plans for The Village at Tradition were unveiled in 2004. Steady progress has been made, despite Katrina in 2005. That year, ground was broken on The Village at Tradition’s infrastructure and Tradition Parkway was completed. In 2007, St. Patrick High School opened at Tradition, and the first homes got underway. The first residents moved in their homes in 2008.

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