It took eight years to come to fruition, but the $20 million Wright House will open in August to 120 University of Georgia students.
Built by the Atlanta Diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Wright House is a residence hall on Lumpkin Street that offers students of any or no faith an “intentional living experience,” according to the Rev. Lang Lowrey, who directs Christian enterprise for the Atlanta Diocese. He shepherded the project through multiple meetings with the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, Athens-based BNA Architects (which designed the building), University of Georgia officials and financial backers.
The facility is named in honor of the Right Rev. Robert Wright, bishop of the Atlanta Diocese, which includes over 75 counties in North and Middle Georgia. In having the residential center named for him, Wright said, “I thought, ‘They must know something about my mortality or the length of my service.’” He has been the bishop since 2012.
The final design has changed markedly from one publicized in 2017, when UGA officials balked at giving the facility access via University Court, a private street that snakes by Oglethorpe House and runs from Lumpkin Street to Cloverhurst Avenue. They later relented.
“We worked with UGA until we had a scale and mass they were comfortable with,” said Brett Nave, CEO of BNA Architects. “We did four different versions of the project. We scaled it down to look like smaller buildings and stepped it back from the street to make it more scaled for people. It’s a lot of little buildings together.”
The facility has one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments, each with a common space—“a little living room,” said Nave—and a “dorm kitchen,” which includes a small refrigerator, a sink, a microwave and a convection dishwasher, but no stovetop or oven. Living in an apartment onsite will be the Rev. Clayton Harrington, the Episcopal campus minister who’s also on staff at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
There are green spaces throughout the facility. Roofs that aren’t green are painted a reflective white, Nave said. Besides residential rooms, the four-story Wright House comes with on-site parking, a fitness center, a roof deck, a large shared kitchen and a small coffee shop on the bottom floor. A ground-level chapel can double as a multi-purpose room that can accommodate events other than a worship service—say, a community yoga class.
Rooms are priced “at market rate,” said developer Larry Kelly of Pope and Land, which financed the project. That means $1,000 a room. To make living at Wright House more affordable for the less affluent, the Atlanta Archdiocese has created The Wright Foundation. It will cover some of the cost of housing for those who can’t afford it.
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