At the top of Lumpkin Street, kitty-corner from Myers Hall, construction crews are building a new residential facility called Wright House that has been years in the planning. The building is a first for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, and could be a bellwether for other campus ministry programs in Georgia. Securing permission from UGA to use University Court, then the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed the project’s start for more than a year, but after a groundbreaking in April, it’s expected to be finished in June 2022.
The facility is named for the Rev. Rob Wright, the Episcopal bishop of the Atlanta Diocese who pushed for its creation. The Wright House will have one, two, three and four-bedroom pods accommodating 123 students, as well as a two-bedroom unit for the Rev. Clayton Harrington, who will serve as chaplain. Only UGA students—of any or no faith—will be allowed to live there.
“Right now we’re doing balcony level planning and are considering what it’s going to look like,” said Harrington. Since St. Mary’s Chapel was demolished to make way for the new facility, UGA’s Episcopal students have been meeting at the Presbyterian Student Center. They will continue to do so during the fall and spring semesters, he said.
In addition to residential rooms, the four-story Wright House will come with on-site parking, a fitness center, a roof deck, a large, shared kitchen, a roof deck and retail—think shops selling coffee and sandwiches—on the bottom floor. There will be a ground-level chapel doubling as a multi-purpose room that can be rearranged for events other than a worship service—say, a community yoga class. The monthly price tag for a bed will be in keeping with Athens’ other private student housing complexes, says the Rev. Canon Lang Lowrey, who directs Christian enterprise for the Atlanta Archdiocese of the Episcopal Church.
“We understand there are a lot of capable students who can get tuition but who can’t get money for living,” said Lowrey. “We’re trying to address that.” To that end, the archdiocese has created the Wright Foundation to help cover the cost of housing for the Wright House.
The Rev. Nikki Mathis, priest at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, is chairing the foundation, which is a work in progress. It’s expected to solicit funds from across north Georgia churches. She said the money will help those in need, “those who don’t have the same opportunities that affluent people do. We’re hoping to get people who may be the first in their families to attend college.”
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