GULF SHORES, AL - Auburn University and the City of Gulf Shores are moving forward with plans to build an educational complex in Gulf Shores that will serve as both an academic outpost for Auburn and a resource for Gulf Coast residents.
It will include a presence by Auburn’s prestigious College of Veterinary Medicine. A joint announcement was made at a news conference Oct. 24 on the lawn of the City Hall annex.
“The Gulf Shores complex supports Auburn University’s mission of serving as an academic and economic resource to Alabama,” Auburn University Provost Tim Boosinger said. “We are excited to expand our reach to another part of the state and increase our capacity to better serve the citizens of South Alabama.”
Financing for the estimated $12 million facility will come through revenue bonds and paid back through a lease agreement with Auburn.
The Auburn University Board of Trustees agreed at its September meeting to authorize President Jay Gogue to execute a lease agreement with the Gulf Shores Public Education Finance Authority, which will purchase the property in Gulf Shores, build a structure and lease it to Auburn for the university’s needs.
The city said in March it had an option to buy the 26-acre parcel contingent upon finding a four-year university to partner with on an extension campus there. It was reported then the purchase price was about $2.1 million.
The Gulf Shores City Council on Oct. 25 also appointed Bob Malone, Ken Kichler and Andrew McKinney to the Gulf Shores Public Education Finance Authority board.
The Auburn facility will be across the street from a city-owned parcel officials hope to develop into the Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence. It is part of a strategic plan, “Small Town, Big Beach Vision 2025 for Sustainability,” adopted by Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and the Gulf Shores City Council in 2014.
With education as a top priority, Gulf Shores plans to establish the Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence to promote access to higher education.
The academic campus will feature a new high school and a new location for Faulkner State Community College, and will encourage affiliations with four-year universities.
“We are honored that Auburn University has decided to invest in Gulf Shores and are thrilled to welcome them as a significant partner in education and the future of our community,” said Craft. “This announcement is a major step forward in making the Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence a reality and advances our mission to enhance the educational opportunities and services available to our residents.”
A number of Auburn’s academic programs are expected to operate out of the new 24,000-square-foot building which will be located at the corner of the Beach Express and County Road 8, adjacent to land acquired by the City of Gulf Shores for a new high school and the planned Coastal Alabama Center for Educational Excellence.
The centerpiece of the Auburn Education Complex will be a referral center for the College of Veterinary Medicine. It will serve as an extension of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Auburn to provide specialty veterinary services and related education opportunities in South Alabama and the surrounding region.
Calvin Johnson, dean of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, said its Veterinary Teaching Hospital has engaged South Alabama and the Gulf Coast region for many years with specialty veterinary services and continuing education for veterinarians.
“We see this as an opportunity to more efficiently serve regional veterinarians and advance animal health while providing an expanded educational experience for our students and residents,” he said.
By having a base of operations in Gulf Shores, Auburn can enhance its student engagement in veterinary clinical education and laboratory training in disciplines unique to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, such as marine mammal medicine, aquatic animal pathology, zoological and wildlife medicine and emergency response.
“We appreciate the opportunity to engage in Auburn University’s educational initiative in Baldwin County and to better serve the veterinary community along the Gulf Coast,” added Johnson. “We look forward to being a good academic neighbor for the proposed Coastal Alabama Center for Education Excellence and a strong community partner for the City of Gulf Shores.”
Additional Auburn programs expected to use the facility include:
• College of Agriculture – ongoing teaching and research activities related to marine fisheries and aquaculture and ornamental horticulture
• Auburn Aviation Center – non-credit training courses such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems certificate; specialty courses such as mapping/surveying, precision agriculture and public safety; and K-12 outreach through the Striped Wings student ambassador program and camps for various grade levels
• Office of Research and Economic Development – coordinating research in additive manufacturing and training highly skilled technical personnel heavily focused for aerospace and providing collaboration opportunities with selected research institutions, community colleges, Airbus and its suppliers, GE Aviation and other manufacturers in the Gulf Coast region
• Alabama Cooperative Extension System – plant diagnostic laboratory to support the local commercial market and homeowners, master gardener’s resource office and various 4-H activities and extension meetings for area residents