UB-North finding new home in Downtown Freeport
Old offices are stripped bare at the Kipling Complex in downtown Freeport, the future campus of University of The Bahamas–North (UB-North).
As UB-North President Dr. Ian Strachan explained, the demolition work is the first step to jump start rebuilding the university after the destruction dealt by Hurricane Dorian.
“This is something that we can inhabit in months and get ourselves up and running, and renovate as we actually use it,” Strachan said.
“The alternative would have been to start from scratch and that has historically taken longer.”
Though demolition is underway, Strachan said renovations and a final design are still pending as multiple contractors and construction companies are being surveyed.
UB Director of Operations Michelet Meronard said there are still plans for each building of the complex.
The Kipling consists of four two-story buildings and one four-story building.
The two-story buildings will be reserved for student facilities and commercial rental spaces while the four-story building will be for office spaces.
The Kipling Complex will be transformed in phases beginning with new offices.
Renovated commercial rental spaces and new student facilities will follow.
These phases also include innovative new features for UB-North.
“One of the good things about it is the amount of square footage allows us to be imaginative about how we can use this space,”
“We are going to have an art gallery. We are going to be able to create a black box theater (a theater with all black walls, ceilings, flooring and stage). We will have large meeting halls, lecture halls.”
The Kipling Complex property has the space the current campus at Trehl Plaza on West Atlantic Drive lacks.
Along with various buildings, the Kipling Complex also has large courtyards, spacious parking and numerous units available to the university.
The present campus at Trehl Plaza only has 12 offices, two classrooms and one computer lab.
The limited size meant some classes were moved off campus to the Bishop Michael Eldon High School, forcing UB-North administration to reduce the courses offered.
Student life activities such as student clubs and events were also stopped as no space was available.
Wilola Beneby-Carroll, executive assistant to the UB-North president, admitted that the lack of space at Trehl Plaza has affected the northern campus’ ability to provide a true university experience.
However, she remains hopeful for an upturn as progress is made at the Kipling Complex.
“We are hoping this will attract more students,” Beneby-Carroll said.
As UB-North will be downtown, it will be easier for many to get to that than when the campus was in East Grand Bahama.
Officials believe part-time students will also be more likely to enroll as they can partake in their classes and quickly return to their jobs and responsibilities.
The limited space has also affected student enrollment, according to Strachan.
In September 2019, UB-North lost its East Grand Bahama campus and dormitories to severe flooding caused by Hurricane Dorian.
At the time, the northern campus was expecting to enroll its highest number of students since moving to East Grand Bahama.
Instead, the campus lost about 100 students. Though UB-North relocated to Trehl Plaza, off-island students had no accommodations and courses were cut due to the loss of classrooms.
This compelled students to continue their education elsewhere.
Some students were also coping with the aftermath of Dorian, forcing them to withdraw from the university.
However, Strachan believes that the rebuilt classrooms will allow more courses to be offered, resulting in an increase in student admissions.
“We are very determined to bring in entrepreneurship, to bring in computer science,” he said.
“I know the institution is building the capacity, so that marine science can be offered here.
“I believe that once we create these programs, we would be able to draw from all over The Bahamas to Grand Bahama. We would be able to increase our international presence here in terms of research as well as in terms of students coming over here to study.”
Beneby-Carroll and Strachan are both certain that the move to the Kipling will better the student-life experience and bring energy to the surrounding downtown area.
“I’m looking forward to the community embracing UB-North as their college,” Strachan said.
For Beneby-Carroll, The Kipling Complex will allow for off-campus classes and student clubs, and university events can be brought to the complex, creating a central space for students to enjoy and interact with each other.
According to Strachan, students will greatly benefit from the conveniences of the downtown area with gyms, restaurants, stores, and more options for transportation.
Surrounding businesses may also benefit from the students’ presence.
Strachan wants the Kipling Complex to be an open space for Grand Bahamians to enjoy university events, host their own activities and allow businesses to rent commercial spaces.
UB-North’s expansion will also bring about new jobs, according to Strachan.
“There will be new hires once the institution starts to expand,” said Strachan. “As we get more students, you need more people to be able to take care and support them whether it be faculty or staff.”
As demolition work continues at the Kipling Complex, Strachan remains confident in the university flourishing at the complex.
“This is a very promising moment,” he said.
“We had a horrific experience with Dorian, but we are coming out of it. We as a university have the potential to come back better and stronger.
“Education is recession-proof. You will always need to educate your people and the university is here to stay.”