William Carey University's president signed papers Wednesday to relocate his gulf coast campus. Instead of rebuilding on Gulfport's waterfront, William Carey will move to Tradition, the master planned community in north Harrison County.
At the moment, there's a lock on the fence that keeps people away from William Carey University's hurricane damage along Highway 90. The combination that unlocks that lock, and the college's recovery plan, won't be found amid its hurricane debris. It's actually near a water tower 17 miles north.
The man who oversees the water tower and everything else on Tradition's property is Gerald Blessey.
"On behalf of Tradition and the Tradition community, we welcome to our family here at Tradition William Carey University," Blessey said at the opening of a news conference to announce the university's relocation plan.
In the fall of 2009, William Carey's flag will move from Gulfport's waterfront to a flag pole near Tradition's discovery center. William Carey's president Tommy King said the move became necessary after Katrina pummeled his campus, and insurance costs skyrocketed.
"The risk of future hurricanes just dictated that we needed to be a little farther away from the water," he said.
The 50 acres William Carey can develop in Tradition's north Harrison County development is right across the street from the new St. Patrick High School. Blessey calls the university "a wonderful fit for our community."
"We have in our strategic plan the creation of a model university community. And now we have a wonderful partner whose goals and vision for a model university in a Christian environment is right in keeping with our goals here at Tradition."
William Carey's beachfront campus was actually on the market before Katrina. After the storm hit, the university got a $15 million repair bill. So President King said an offer from Tradition's developer to relocate to Highway 67 became too good to pass up. Especially when King realized new road construction in this area opened up William Carey to a lot more students.
"The convergence of the three new highways from Biloxi, Gulfport and Highway 49 in Saucier, all to be four lane highways, makes it just the center of the gulf coast," he said.
And to hurricane battered William Carey University, being in the center, away from future storm surges, and closer to a new community, is the right combination at just the right time.
Just two weeks ago, Tradition announced that Biloxi Regional Medical Center was opening a clinic in the master planned community. About a dozen homes are currently under construction at Tradition. Developers say the area has enough room for 15,000 housing units.