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Construction booming at state universities

The R.W. Harrison Complex at Mississippi Valley State University is receiving a complete renovation and an addition.

The R.W. Harrison Complex at Mississippi Valley State University is receiving a complete renovation and an addition.

Construction is on the upswing at the state’s universities. Some have major projects under way after a dry spell of several years.

Currently there are six projects in construction or just finishing at Mississippi Valley State University. Director for Physical Facilities Management and Campus Planning Tommy Verdell Jr. is busy as the work continues to update existing facilities. “We want to invigorate the campus to aid in the recruitment and retention of students,” he said.

Several of the buildings were constructed in the 1970s and were in need of facelifts. One of those is the R.W. Harrison Complex, an athletic facility receiving a complete renovation along with an addition. It’s the location of the health, physical education and recreation department, athletic administrative offices and the location for convocation and graduation ceremonies. “With a budget of $17.5 million, this is one of our largest projects,” Verdell said. “It will be complete in the spring of 2016.”

James Residence Hall, built in 1964, is getting a $3.4 million makeover, and plans are in the works to renovate and modernize another existing residence hall. The J.H. White Library, which had nothing done to it since it was built in 1971, has received a $12.5 million makeover and now has state-of-the-art  technology and operating systems. Roofing renovations were recently completed for six buildings.

“We’re also wrapping up construction of a new $864,000 home for the president,” Verdell said. “It’s a modern home built in a traditional style.”

Public Affairs Director Danny Blanton lists a number of projects under way at the University of Mississippi. “Construction on a new multi-purpose basketball arena, which includes a food court, academic areas and the basketball facility, began in spring 2014, with the opening expected during the first quarter of 2016,” he said. “It will seat approximately 9,500 fans, and include a number of first-class amenities to serve students, student-athletes and fans. The arena will take the place of the West Stadium Parking Lot and the Rebel Shop.”

The university broke ground on its first parking garage, a five-story facility slated to open in fall 2014, and on an addition and renovation to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“The addition will add 15,695 square feet to the facility. When the project is completed, the honors college will include several new classrooms, study nooks, and administrative offices, as well as a new large conference room and a new lounge/reception area where the current dean’s office suite is located,” Blanton said.

The west wing of the Music Building is currently under a $4.3 million renovation; Coulter Hall is getting a $15-16 million addition; and the School of Pharmacy is constructing Phase II of its Thad Cochran Research Center, which will nearly double the school’s available research space and is scheduled for completion late this year. Funded by several federal grants, this portion  will complete the two-building National Center for Natural Products Research complex.

“The new building will include several cutting-edge facilities such as an area for clinical trials, an expanded botanical-specimen repository, laboratories for scaling-up synthesis of naturally derived compounds and laboratories for expanding efforts to discover natural products,” Blanton said.

There’s a lot of construction under way at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, much of it due to damage caused by the Feb. 10, 2013 tornado. There are six ongoing roofing projects and two out to bid, along with some tornado-related projects just finishing, according to Dr. Chris Crenshaw, director of physical plant and assistant vice president for facilities planning and management. “I’ve been here 20 years and we’ve never had this much construction going on,” he said. “After the tornado, everyone pulled together and we’re doing things to brighten the future. We’ve completed the landscape renovation around Lake Byron and renovations to the Ogletree Alumni House, the iconic building that was on television after the tornado. This is the completion of the first major restoration and we’re excited about it.”

Work on the fine arts project — consisting of Marsh Hall, the Performing Arts Building and George Hurst Building — will be complete next month. Construction on the Chuck Scianna Hall for the College of Business will be complete in the spring of next year. “This $23 million project is our most visible project and will be state of the art in terms of technology,” Crenshaw said. “Our students will be thrilled. It was funded by private giving and legislative funds.”

Century Park South is Southern Miss’ largest project ever undertaken. It includes a residence hall, Moffitt Health Center and the Lucky Day Scholarship Program offices. A $55 million project, it will house 954 students and will be finished in January 2015.

Work began last week on Asbury Hall, a $24 million project to house the College of Nursing, and it’s hoped completion will come in two years.

“Much of our building has been fueled by the generosity of those who gave to our tornado restoration fund,” Crenshaw said. “We could not have done it so quickly without that help and we are grateful for it.”



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