Part one of the project is going on at Fitzhugh Hall. University officials said crews began work Monday demolishing a section of the building that has been crumbling as a result of shifting Yazoo clay.
Fitzhugh Hall, an iconic, 100-year-old structure, has held among many things a women's dormitory, a swimming pool and a coffee shop.
By fall 2013, a state-of-the-art science center will close the gaping hole left behind.
Belhaven President Dr. Roger Parrott said labs, classrooms and offices were removed from the building. The move affected 83 people.
"To fit a modern science facility into a historic building is very challenging, but we have a design that accomplishes that, and I think it's one for the ages," said Reid Bishop, a chemistry professor who has worked closely with the project's architects.
Parrott said the university is determined to raise the $6 million needed. The project is moving forward with $1.5 million in donations and bank financing to cover the rest.
There's simply no time to wait.
"If it collapses on its own, it's going to be more expensive to build back up," he said.
He said such an event could compromise the remainder of the building that's salvageable.
The existing footprint of the building is 21,000 square feet. When completed, it will be nearly 29,000.