Arkansas Baptist College announced Thursday that it will invest $18 million to expand its Little Rock campus by adding a new residence hall and general education building and purchasing nearby real estate for future growth. The college said First Security Bank of Little Rock, supported by federal tax credits, is providing financing for the expansion. “This is a significant expansion that will allow us to continue growing our enrollment, and creating new educational and economic opportunities for those who need it the most, but often have the most difficult time gaining access to it,” Dr. Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College, said in a news release. “We intend to nurture our traditional strengths as a Historically Black College, connect our academic programming to applied workforce and entrepreneurial skills, and take a lead role in rebuilding the community we call home. We are very grateful for the support from First Security Bank and Arkansas Capital Corporation.” The project will also renovate Old Main, which was built in 1893 and is the oldest African American educational building in Arkansas. Other parts of the projects will include:
- Expansion of the cafeteria from 77 seats to 322 seats
- A new 190-bed residence hall
- Through separate funding, a community union that will include a coffee shop and lounge-study area, food court, office space, conference room and loft apartment living for students
The expansion is being supported by the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program, enacted in December 2000 by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act. The college said the NMTC helps spur private investment in businesses and nonprofits operating in low-income communities. “First Security Bank is proud to participate in this partnership, which is vital to rebuilding a core community in Little Rock,” John Rutledge, president and CEO of First Security Bank, said. “Dr. Hill and the staff at Arkansas Baptist are committed to educating generations of students and to creating economic opportunities for residents in the surrounding community.” NMTC offers tax credits to catalyze private-sector investments that create jobs and access to capital for small businesses that enhance community development. Under the NMTC program, Arkansas Capital Corporation will sell tax credits to qualified national investors. The college said the tax credits ultimately reduce the amount of debt owed by Arkansas Baptist College to First Security Bank. “Arkansas Capital Corporation and Heartland Renaissance Fund have put a great deal of time and work in getting federal New Market Tax Credits for the benefit of Arkansas, with a focus on projects related to education, healthcare and economic development,” said C. Sam Walls, chief executive officer of Arkansas Capital. “Supporting the Arkansas Baptist College project is one of the best utilizations of these tax credits that we have seen. We are proud to be part of Dr. Fitz Hill’s vision for Arkansas Baptist College.” Over the past two years, Arkansas Baptist has raised more than $6 million for capital projects through fundraising activities and grants. Since spring 2006, enrollment at Arkansas Baptist has increased from less than 200 to about 750. The college expects enrollment to reach 1,200 by fall 2014. The college also said that since 2006, it has demolished or renovated 20 houses, purchased 12 additional homes and lots and acquired 3 neighborhood businesses as part of its community revitalization efforts.