For students walking around the University of Georgia campus, the construction underway at 980 South Lumpkin St. is particularly noticeable. The Episcopal Center located on the site began demolition on March 15 with a project to build student accommodation and worship space in its place.
The new building, which is not directly connected to the UGA, will be called The Wright House. Its namesake is Episcopal Bishop Robert Wright, the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. The name was revealed during a groundbreaking ceremony on April 23. The bishop, who was present, spoke about the importance of the project.
“I am honored to have my name associated with it,” said Wright. “It is a space where people feel rested and safe at night, but also to pray and study. “
Campus missionary Rev. Clayton Harrington stressed that the project, like the events at the center, is accessible to everyone.
“When we do yoga in the chapel on Thursday evenings, it’s open to everyone. You don’t have to be an Episcopalian to participate in housing or community, ”said Harrington.
The project was first proposed in 2017 with plans to complete the project in 2018. The delays included finding common ground with the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission and the UGA as well. as complications caused by the pandemic.
The plan was finally approved by the Athens Commission in March 2018.
Working closely with the university was important for the church throughout the planning process. Wright said the support from the community was encouraging.
“We think it’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” Wright said. “What we wanted to do was make sure the project was the right size for the plot and that we weren’t increasing traffic. We want to be a good neighbor, which is all about communication. At the end of the day, it’s about being in communication with those in charge of the UGA and the president’s office.
Allie O’Neal, deputy project manager for the project’s general contractor, Grahl Construction, said traffic flow was especially taken into account in final plans.
“We are always concerned about safety,” O’Neal said. “So we paid great attention to traffic and pedestrian safety by being right on campus and next to a main road. “
Ultimately, the final plan includes a 123 en-suite bedroom property, on-site parking, bike storage, a fitness center, and a shared kitchen area.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Reverend Lang Lowrey spoke about the need for affordable housing near campus, citing the rise in homelessness among students. According to the Hope Center, 8.7% of Georgia university students experienced homelessness in 2018 and 39% were in a housing situation.
“The main idea of this project is to bring people together in an intentional community, not just Episcopalians but people of other faiths and people with no religion,” Lowrey said. “We also do it because many students, even if they get scholarships and money, cannot afford housing.
Construction of the Wright House is expected to be completed in time for the fall semester of 2022.
“What we’re hoping for is a groundbreaking ceremony in 2022,” Wright said. “Our real big objective is to be able to welcome students in the fall of 2022.”