Construction financing in place for Marine Corps academy at Federal City

2 November 2012

The New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy reached a critical milestone, securing construction financing for a high school building in Federal City.

The Times-Picayune

Semper High: Construction financing in place for Marine Corps academy at Federal City

The Times-Picayune

2 November 2012

Four years after a state charter high school idea was conceived to augment the Federal City project in Algiers, leaders of the New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy, where students are cadets and involvement in Marine Corps Junior ROTC is mandatory, have closed on a financing package to build a campus. Construction on the $14 million campus, which will include two renovated century-old Navy buildings, is expected to begin in January, the school’s commandant, Col. Bill Davis, said Friday.

“This, of course, is a critical milestone,” Davis said. “I want to say good things come to those who wait.”

NOMMA opened in the 2010-11 academic year with a freshman class in borrowed space at a former Orleans Parish public school campus in Algiers. The academy began its second academic year in August, with about 230 freshmen and sophomore cadets, albeit in borrowed space inside the Marine Corps Support Facility, the 29-acre compound that is home to Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North.

If the development goes as planned, construction of the new campus, just outside the Marine Corps installation, should be complete in January 2014.

“The construction gives us all the educational spaces we need for our full-size school of 600 to 700 cadets,” Davis said.

During the next two academic years, the academy will add freshman classes as current cadets move up in grade, rounding out a four-year high school.

The academy will piggy back on Federal City for amenities such as the project’s auditorium for assemblies and the YMCA and track for physical activities, Davis said, explaining how a high school campus could be built for $14 million.

In addition to classrooms, the campus will include a library, space for music and band programs, a cafeteria, labs, locker rooms and administrative offices, Davis said. The staff includes civilian faculty providing a college preparatory curriculum and a cadre of retired Marines who oversee the Junior ROTC program. The Marine Corps has also invested in the school, providing items such as camouflage uniforms to cadets.

All told, $17 million was secured for the campus through a complex financing package that involves new market tax credits and includes $7.5 million on Community Development Block Grants the academy obtained with the Algiers Development Corporation, an arm of the Algiers Development District. That money was used to purchase $11 million in bonds, Davis said.

With help from the New Orleans Federal Alliance, the nonprofit overseeing Federal City, the academy got $3.6 million through Louisiana Economic Development’s “mega fund,” the source for the state’s $150 million contribution to the Federal City project, Davis said.

As part of closing on the financing this week, the academy also entered into a $1.25 million, 71-year lease with HRI, the Federal City master developer, Davis said. He said the $1.25 million is just below the appraised value.

Woodward Design+Build, the New Orleans contractor that built the Marine Corps Support Facility, also was selected to build the academy, Davis said.

The initial campus development plan called for two phases, the first of which was to renovate to buildings the Navy built in the early 1900s. The second phase called for building out new facilities in space between the Navy buildings.

But by waiting, the academy’s board was able to secure a financing package to build the campus at once, Davis said.

“Now we’re going to build the literal campus, to build this academy for future generations,” he said. “So this is a huge first step.”

The academy is viewed as a key piece of the Federal City project and a central element in the state’s pitch to lure a proposed Marine Corps information technology command to New Orleans.

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