Laura Seitz, Deseret News
PROVO — Young men in white shirts and ties and young women in conservative skirts will replace T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing college students at two Provo apartment complexes for at least the next year and a half.
Raintree Commons and Wyview Park will be transformed into temporary campuses for 2,000 Mormon missionaries while the LDS Church makes plans to expand its bulging Missionary Training Center.
Privately owned Raintree Commons, 1849 N. 200 West, agreed to lease its apartments to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the next 18 months, said Shelly Freeman, a Raintree owner and manager. The church also has an option to extend the lease.
Wyview Park, 146 W. 1940 North, an apartment complex for students at church-owned Brigham Young University, will also house missionaries across the street from Raintree.
Use of the apartments comes as the church looks to add on to the current MTC, which has had a dramatic increase in new missionaries since the church lowered the age of service for women to 19 and men to 18. The church withdrew plans last October to build a nine-story building on the campus, a move that drew praise from some in the surrounding neighborhood worried about obstructed views of the mountains.
"We are currently reviewing options with the city and neighbors that would approximately double the capacity of the Provo MTC," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter. "These plans are not yet finalized."
Provo Mayor John Curtis said the church has not submitted any building plans to the city.
"They've got it narrowed down to a couple of ideas that they've shared with us. They're working with the neighbors and trying to get approval from church headquarters for the best plan. The logistics of what they're trying to accomplish there is massive," he said.
Curtis didn't elaborate on what the church has shown the city.
Meantime, many new missionaries, who have been reporting for training at a rate of 1,400 per week since early January, will be housed at Raintree or Wyview. Raintree has capacity for 924 residents, while Wyview has room for 1,305. Both complexes are just more than a mile west of the MTC.
No students will be displaced at Wyview, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins. Residents who want to stay in their apartments will be able to do so, she said. Students and missionaries will be housed in separate buildings.
Freeman said the MTC intends to turn two-thirds of the Raintree apartments into classrooms, while the other third will be used for housing.
Missionaries at Raintree and Wyview will eat, exercise and attend classes and worship services on site, according to the church. The church also intends to erect temporary structures to provide other services for missionaries.
Freeman said she understands a giant tent will be put up in the north parking lot to serve as a cafeteria. The church also plans to build a temporary fence around the property, she said. The pool in the middle of complex will remain filled but will be covered.
Curtis said he doesn't expect the church will to have obtain city approval for the modifications.
Freeman said it's exciting for Raintree to be part of the MTC's temporary solution, but also "scary" from a business standpoint to ask the current 918 residents to leave.
"We hope they come back," she said.
Current housing contracts expire April 27. The MTC wants to have the complex ready to go May 1, Freeman said. "They've got a huge feat to get it done on time," she said.
BYU student Adam Christiansen was among those looking for new digs after learning late Wednesday he would have to move. He said he was "kind of torn" about leaving but as a Finnish teacher at the MTC he knows space there is tight.
"I'm not too upset," he said.
Nerina Urban, a BYU student who teaches Italian at the MTC, said Raintree will lack the "coziness" of the main campus. Still, she said, she can picture the complex as a training center for missionaries.
"It think it's a great place," she said. "It would be a little different. Either way, the work is the same no matter what location."
The church announced this week that its current missionary work force worldwide totals 64,373. Of the mission calls made since Jan. 1, 57 percent are young men, 36 percent are young women, and 7 percent are seniors.
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