The University of Mississippi and Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi have announced they have reached a purchase and sale agreement for the existing hospital property located at 2301 South Lamar Blvd.
The acquisition of the property will allow the university to address current space allocation challenges as well as future growth needs.
“The university is always examining how best to nurture and manage growth associated with strong demand for our academic programs,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We will continue to focus the heart of campus on our core, academic functions.
“The purchase of this property allows us to provide improved space for our support units and other functions that serve external constituencies. It will also be a major factor in helping us effectively address our capacity for future growth.”
Baptist North Mississippi is an acute care facility serving the northern third of Mississippi. One of the fastest-growing hospitals in the region, the new replacement hospital has been in planning since 2009. The new five-story hospital will have more comprehensive medical and surgical services to serve those in need and offer more convenience to patients and visitors.
“This was a very easy decision for us,” said Jason Little, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care. “We have been part of this community for nearly 30 years, and we have enjoyed a great relationship with the university during that time. We are proud to be able to help advance the university’s mission however we can.”
The new hospital represents one of the largest economic development projects in the history of Oxford and Lafayette County and will further position Baptist North Mississippi as a regional referral center, providing greater accessibility for patients and space to expand services for generations to come.
“On behalf of the Board of Aldermen and the city of Oxford, we are pleased with the Baptist North Mississippi and the University of Mississippi’s purchase and sale agreement,” Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson said. “We think it will serve our growing community well.
“This is a smart use of existing space, and we look forward to this transition. We are proud of these major milestones in our community.”
“This sale signifies a great partnership between the University of Mississippi and Baptist North Mississippi,” said Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors. “I think this will be a huge asset to this community, and I appreciate Baptist keeping us informed throughout this process.
“We are excited about both the opening of the new hospital and also the transformation of the Baptist property by the university.”
The agreement includes a lease-back to allow Baptist North Mississippi sufficient time to complete the move into its new facility, which is currently under construction. Baptist North Mississippi’s new hospital facility — expected to open in November 2017 — is located on an extension of Belk Boulevard that connects South Lamar Boulevard with Old Taylor Road, south of Highway 6.
“Throughout this process, our top priority was finding a new owner that would use the property for a cause that would benefit our city, and we believe the university is a perfect choice,” said Bill Henning, administrator and CEO of Baptist North Mississippi. “We look forward to seeing how the university will transform the facility and the positive impact it will have on our community.”
In 2016, The Chronicle of Higher Education named Ole Miss the nation’s eighth-fastest growing college among both public and private institutions in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014. The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered. Enrollment at the university has increased for 22 consecutive years.
“As the university continues to address the level and scope of our growth, we must manage the need for quality space,” said Larry Sparks, UM vice chancellor for administration and finance. “The acquisition of this property allows us to efficiently and cost-effectively address that challenge especially when taking into account the cost of new construction versus renovation. This purchase is good business and gives us capacity that has an economy of scale.”
The university, which has been planning for additional needed space on campus, will pay $22 million for the 15-acre site. Through effective resource management, the university is in a position to capitalize on the opportunity to purchase the Baptist North Mississippi property, which includes a 428,000-square-foot building, a parking garage with 670 parking spaces, 250 surface parking spaces and 75 underground parking spaces. The purchase of the property provides almost seven times more space than similar costs for new construction.
The agreement was approved by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning at its June 15 meeting. Now the purchase agreement will be submitted to the city of Oxford and Lafayette County for their option to match under their right of first refusal. They will have 30 days to respond.