By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Current renovations and expansions on the University of Mississippi campus may not be as exciting as a new coliseum that’s proposed for “someday,” but the campus is busy with construction projects.
Historic Ventress Hall is undergoing a more than year-long restoration after suffering severe damage from a broken water coil last fall. The project is expected to be completed in December.
“We’re putting back the damaged finishes historically correctly, but we’re taking … the mechanical system out of the roof and putting it in the basement,” said Ian Banner, director of facilities planning.
A new route from the South Lot at Highway 6 and Old Taylor Road allows buses, bicyclists and pedestrians a more direct westerly route to the heart of campus.
The $13.2 million mechanical plant on Ford Boulevard will heat and cool about one-fourth of the campus after its completion next spring. Parking on nearby Old Taylor Road has been expanded by more than 200 spaces, and new parking anywhere on campus is now being built with permeable concrete to reduce stormwater runoff. A $14 million renovation at Johnson Commons West promises a revamped cafeteria in August 2013.
Two major expansions and one renovation are in early planning. The Thad Cochran Research Center will undergo a $40 million addition on its south side to expand its mission of natural products research. The Student Union will see a $50 million expansion – likely on its north side.
“Expanding to the south would put it into sacred territory – the Grove – which wouldn’t be good architectural planning,” Banner joked.
With 500,000 square feet of space and several structural systems, it will be a challenge to determine the best use of the old Whirlpool facility that Ole Miss owns. Despite its former use as an appliance factory, Banner said it would be “people space.”
One trend he hopes to continue is LEED certification, which emphasizes efficient use of material, energy and human resources. The Medicinal Plant Garden, Small Business Development Center, Carrier Hall addition, Center for Manufacturing Excellence and Insight Park are all LEED registered and under consideration for certification, while the Khayat Law Center is already LEED gold-certified.