Ole Miss: Mall purchase strategic, not specific

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – After several years of decline, Oxford Mall may see new life.
The state College Board gave the go-ahead for the University of Mississippi to negotiate for the purchase of the commercial property that now houses a few stores and a movie complex. Both Malco theater complex and JCPenney have long-term leases for their portion of the mall, and an Ole Miss official said there are no plans to change that arrangement.
Larry Sparks, Ole Miss vice chancellor for finance, said that the university’s interest is in securing the property now for uses that may have not yet been identified. If the $6.9 million sale goes through, it would afford the university a 40-acre tract of land across Jackson Avenue from the main campus, including more than 150,000 square feet under a roof, for future use.
“It just seems from a long-term strategic position, it was the right thing to do,” Sparks said. “It’s a mixed-use property now, and that may very well be the most appropriate thing for that in the short to medium term.
The university already owns the easternmost portion of the mall, which formerly housed Walmart and has often used it as temporary space for departments whose permanent locations are being repaired or upgraded.
“The Alumni Association will be there temporarily as soon as we can get them there. They’ve had some damage to their building,” Sparks said. “We have a list of (departments) who’ve requested space, and the Provost’s office is prioritizing those requests. The building there in the front of the property is where we print the Daily Mississippian now.”
The Oxford Eagle reported a Chicago company will open a skate rink and bowling alley in part of the mall in September. Sparks said he was unaware of that additional use of the mall but that it would not upset the university’s plans.
“If we do become the owners, I wouldn’t look for any immediate changes. We have been focusing on trying to negotiate the purchase,” he said. “(After that) we’ll turn our attention to short-, medium- and long-range plans for that property.”