Ole Miss proposes new building projects

OXFORD – The University of Mississippi could have a starting point for campus visitors and accommodations for hundreds of new students if two early-stage proposals pay off.
University officials asked the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning (the “College Board”) this month for approval to design a new welcome center proposed for the Old Taylor Road entrance to campus.
Currently, prospective students must find their circuitous way to Martindale Hall, far from any campus entrance, to meet with Student Affairs personnel.
“The welcome center could provide a place for families and visitors to come and orient them to the campus,” said Ian Banner, campus architect and director of facilities planning. “Larry Ridgeway (vice chancellor for student affairs) has a significant staff in Martindale, and some, if not all, of them could be located in such a facility.”
Among possible features at a welcome center could be offices, conference rooms, an auditorium and, ideally, 3-D models of the campus – both a current one and another as envisioned in the master plan.
“The idea would be that we’d put orientation there … and campus tours could start at that point,” said Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for finance and administration. “It sounds like a win-win on paper; we’re going to the next step to see if we can move it closer to reality.”
Another proposal at Ole Miss is for an additional 700-bed student residence, probably to be located near Miller Hall on Rebel Drive. Single freshmen, unless they commute from their parents’ home, are required to reside on campus, and record enrollments in several recent years have pushed the university’s ability to house them all.
The new facility would follow the fast-track completion in July 2009 and July 2010, respectively, of two amenity-rich residential colleges, designed to foster community among students from diverse geographic, cultural and academic backgrounds. Officials have not yet decided whether the proposed residence will be designed on the same model.
“Obviously a residential college is significantly more expensive than a traditional residential hall because of computer rooms, libraries, faculty apartments. All that adds to the price,” Banner said. “We’re evaluating what’s the best way to serve the students and make the money go farthest.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

ERROL CASTENS / Daily Journal Oxford Bureau