FOLLOWING their visit to Wexford last week, representatives from Georgia Southern University (GSU) return to the US with a decision to make regarding student accommodation for their Wexford campus which is due to take up to 80 students from next year.
Two years ago, Wexford County Council reached a deal with the Diocese of Ferns to take over the old Adoration Convent building at Bride Street Church with the goal of converting it into student accommodation for the US university’s Wexford based European outreach centre. Chief Executive of Wexford County Council Tom Enright confirmed that the council had taken a two year “holding lease” on the historic building for “a modest rent”; a lease which is now set to be extended slightly with a decision imminent from GSU on how to progress the project.
Last week, Mr Enright presented “a number of options” to Vice President for Business and Finance at GSU Ron Stalnaker and Vice President of University Advancement Trip Addison. However he revealed that all options on the table currently involve the old convent building.
"We had the delegation from Georgia Southern over to advance this project and there are a number of options available in terms of how to develop,” Mr Enright said. “They’ve been given their options and all of the financial information and I would expect that a decision will be made shortly. Basically, it’s a matter of different financial packages available to the university, but this will be funded by Georgia Southern, not the council.”
Among the options supposedly on the table are for GSU to purchase and renovate the building themselves or for a private investor to take on the project and lease out the student accommodation to the university.
"Georgia Southern are committed to providing student accommodation in Wexford,” Mr Enright said. “They are aware that rented accommodation is hard to find at the moment and of the costs involved in students staying in hotels etc. The provision of student accommodation is key. I’m confident that the convent building will be the location for that accommodation. The university are very keen on the building’s history and were more enthusiastic about it perhaps than other newer options which wouldn’t carry the same costs in terms of renovation.
"Going forward, there will be a number of convent buildings like this vacant as vocations decline. It can be hard to come up with a use for these beautiful buildings and we don’t want them left derelict. We want to make sure they’re used and I think this is a really positive use. I think there’s great potential in this project and it will bring a new life and vibrancy to Wexford. Hopefully this will grow in the coming years and, combined with a new campus for the Technological University of the South East, it will become a really vibrant, university town.”