AL’s First Public School Gets Renovation Boost

United Bank partner UBCD announces $3.5M in tax credit funds.

Photo courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

UB Community Development, a partner of Atmore-based United Bank, announced May 1 that it would offer $3.5 million in New Markets Tax Credit funds, in conjunction with $7.8 million in financing provided by United Bank, as part of a $17 million project to renovate historic Barton Academy in downtown Mobile.

Constructed in 1836, Barton Academy was the first public school in Alabama and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It was used as a hospital for Union soldiers in 1864 during the Civil War.

The building has been vacant since 2007 when the school system’s administration offices relocated to west Mobile. In 2012, the Barton Academy Foundation was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to work with Mobile County Public Schools to raise funds to restore the structure and make it into the Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies.

The Mobile County Board of School Commissioners has recently invested $4 million in exterior renovations to the historic building.

When complete, the rehabilitated 59,540-square-foot facility would serve up to 300 middle school students annually, providing a full curriculum in all core subjects, including science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), English and social studies with an emphasis on foreign languages, world geography and global economics.

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“The foundational mission of both UB Community Development and United Bank is building strong communities; This is our second project funded with New Markets Tax Credits in Mobile’s Downtown Historic District this year,” says Alex Jones, President of UB Community Development. “We appreciate the significance of preserving Alabama’s oldest public school, allowing students to experience a modern curriculum and learning conveniences in a historical environment.”

The project will create 50 direct construction jobs and 28 permanent full-time jobs, 18 of which are expected to be full-time teaching personnel. In addition to receiving NMTC funds, the project received funds from a private capital campaign as well as Federal and Alabama State Historic Tax Credits.

“We are very appreciative of our partnerships with UB Community Development and the Barton Academy Foundation to make the Barton Academy of Advanced World Studies a reality,” said Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Chresal D. Threadgill. “The citizens of Mobile are excited to see Barton Academy return to its original use as a school.”

United Bank is a $733 million financial institution that has enjoyed 116 years of continuous service to Atmore, Alabama and surrounding communities.

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