By STEVEN NALLEY
Every year, juniors in Mississippi State University’s interior design program work on a real-world project. As a consultant with Tabor Construction and an assistant interior design professor at MSU, Lyndsey Miller has been well-equipped to supply these projects for the past three years.
“We’ve had two instances of working with Central Station, one being Tabor’s office space that was to be located where Something Southern is located now, that was the first year,” Miller said. “Then the second year, it was developing the loft condominiums and office space that’s currently there. Their ideas were implemented in some of the space requirements and some of the design details.”
This year, Miller decided to raise the stakes.
In December 2011, Miller’s class completed a real client project focused on repurposing the former Starkville Electric Department Building for other municipal use.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said the city is still considering a proposal from the West Brothers construction company to demolish the SED building and replace it with new spaces for city hall offices, a courtroom and rental space. He said he anticipates a decision on the proposal in six to eight weeks.
The students worked within the idea of renovating the building instead, Wiseman said, but city officials ultimately decided renovation would not provide enough space. This does not mean the students’ ideas are out of the question, he said.
“(Miller) has made the presentations available to us, (and) those are certainly something that anybody that was actually doing the project on the site could see if they could look at and draw some ideas from,” Wiseman said. “(The students) did a great job with that. There were three to five groups that made presentations on how the building could be renovated. They came up with some really interesting things. I really enjoyed the presentations.”
Miller said about a dozen city officials and leaders attended the presentations, including aldermen and representatives from the GSDP.
“We did have a lot of people who had an investment in the city one way or another to come, and they provided feedback,” Miller said. “I think it really generated an idea about what could be in that location. The end of Main Street needs to be something substantial, and it gave them some insight on what it could be.”
Miller said the project began when Tabor Construction approached her about students submitting design ideas to renovate the SED building. The students then visited the building with Jeremy Tabor, who served as liaison between the city and the students, she said.
While Tabor was on hand to provide direction, Lauren Collins said she and her fellow students also had much to do themselves.
“We didn’t have any floor plans,” Collins said, “so we had to go measure everything and draw the whole building ourselves.”
Another student, Keeton Craig, said a key challenge was working within the existing building’s specifications and dividing its space evenly. Divided into small groups, she said, some students found innovative solutions.
“We had the opportunity to add a third floor if we wanted to,” Craig said. “That helped a lot. I know several of the groups did that. I think that helped a lot as far as space planning goes.”
Loren Wood said her class also had to think about the building’s exterior, trying to match it with the Oktibbeha County School District’s new building near Mugshots as well.
“We were trying to get it to look kind of like that,” Wood said, “but also, the whole Main Street has the kind of New Orleans-y look, so we were trying to fit it all in one.”
In the end, Wood said, the project was worthwhile.
“It really was one of my favorite projects,” Wood said. “We actually had to present the project to the mayor and the city clerk and everybody that had an office in the building. It was fun; it made me feel important.”
Another student, Blake Stringer, said the project was his first time actually visiting a site, working on a pre-existing building and taking measurements. Working with a real project rather than a theoretical textbook project was special and useful, he said.
“It gives us an idea of what it’s going to be like when we do get our degree,” Stringer said.