By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University received approval for two construction projects and a land exchange from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning at its board meeting Oct. 20.
Jerry Gilbert, provost and executive vice president at MSU, announced the projects’ approval Monday on MSU’s website. Chief among the projects is a new classroom building with built-in parking facilities to the north of the YMCA building.
Initially, Gilbert said, internal discussions at MSU only placed a parking garage on this parcel, but record enrollment at MSU accelerated discussion of a new classroom building. He said it was MSU President Mark Keenum who came up with the idea to combine the new classrooms and parking into a single building.
“The discussion of the project has been about a year, but only recently within the last four months or so have we been talking about the project with classrooms associated with it,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said the facility will feature a total of about 1,900 classroom seats in 38 classrooms of varying sizes. University architect Tim Muzzi said the classroom space will be located on the upper three floors, with 170-185 parking spaces on the bottom two floors.
Gilbert said these numbers are far from final because what IHL actually approved was only MSU’s call for proposals from its chosen architectural firm, Belinda Stewart Architects in Eupora. Further, Muzzi said, the project still has to be approved by the Mississippi Bureau of Buildings.
“Anything that we do that’s over $1 million has to be approved by IHL,” Muzzi said. “If there’s state funds involved, IHL has to approve it, then it has to be approved by the Bureau of Buildings.”
Muzzi said it usually takes 8-10 months for contracts, designs and other steps in the planning and state approval process before MSU can actually break ground on a project, so he anticipates construction starting about one year from now.
From there, Muzzi said, it could take from 12 to 16 months to actually construct the facility. He said IHL’s approval letters are currently at the Bureau of Buildings, so design development should start no later than Jan. 1, 2012.
The IHL also approved a land exchange between MSU and the Mississippi Baptist Convention, through which MSU will receive the current Baptist Student Union Building and its associated 2.5 acres. In exchange, MSU will give the MBC 3 acres of MSU property across from Building 3, where the MBC will construct a new Baptist Student Union.
Gilbert said this exchange has been in the works for a year and a half. He said MSU is likely to use the BSU building for administrative functions because the campus master plan and Keenum’s vision call for student-centered functions, including classrooms and academic departments, move closer to the center of campus, the Drill Field. Other departments, including administration, will move further away from the center.
“We see it as a real win-win,” Gilbert said. “We didn’t have plans for the land we are exchanging for their land and building.”
Finally, the IHL approved an architectural firm for a new housing complex for upperclassmen, graduate students and international students to replace Aiken Village once it is demolished. The firm, Muzzi said, is Pryor and Morrow Architects and Engineers in Columbus.
Pryor and Morrow will also be handling demolition, Muzzi said, which will start in January or late February. MSU is aiming to ensure the new facility is open in August 2013 for the fall semester.
Bill Kibler, vice president for student affairs at MSU, said IHL has not approved any specific layouts for the new complex yet, but preliminary plans call for construction in two phases. Only the first phase would be completed in August 2013, he said, and there are currently no projections for when phase two would finish.
“There are currently about 260 apartments in the Aiken Village complex,” Kibler said. “We expect phase one of our redevelopment of that to have only about half of those apartments, but we expect our full development of that to have close to the full number of apartments, about 250 apartments.”