Mississippi State officials Thursday [April 24] held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new three-level facility that will add 20 much-needed classrooms on the upper level and an eagerly anticipated 150-space, two-story parking garage.
Tim Muzzi, associate director of architectural planning and construction, predicted the new building will become an immediately identifiable campus symbol that helps welcome students, employees and visitors to the more than 136-year-old campus.
The structure will be reminiscent in design to the campus's legendary Old Main Dormitory, which was destroyed by fire in 1959.
"It will be the front gate to the campus when you drive up [on George Perry from Mississippi Highway 182]," Muzzi said, observing that its historic look should "fit well in the center of campus."
Altogether, construction will cost approximately $41 million. Around $11 million is coming from state bond funds through the Bureau of Buildings. MSU's Educational Building Corp. bonds are providing about $30 million more for the project, Muzzi said.
Eupora-based Belinda Stewart Architects is heading the 150,000-sqaure-feet project. The classroom building will comprise 90,000 square feet, while the parking garage will take the additional 60,000 square feet.
Evan Johnson and Sons Construction based in Brandon is the general contractor.
Stewart, a 1985 MSU alumna and principal architect, said she has enjoyed delving into the past to create a new building that will look like the iconic building so important to her alma mater's history.
She noted that Old Main "evolved over its 79-year life (from 1880) to become an interconnected rectangle of dormitory spaces with a very large open courtyard in the middle." At the time of the 1959 fire, "it was believed to be the largest college dormitory in the United States," she said.
She described the dominating original structure as "a beautiful red brick building with a large front porch," noting that exterior features included "stone banding and details, many of which are reflected in the other historic buildings" on campus.
The site's sloping hillside provides "an ideal opportunity to allow cars to drive directly into the parking level on each floor," Stewart said.
"This will allow a flat, open parking level that is much easier to navigate and gives much more visibility and implied safety throughout the parking area; it also was more cost-effective than ramping the lower floor levels," she said.
Mike Rackley said classrooms will feature the latest technologies, which also will be found in the common and study areas. MSU's chief information officer said numerous electrical outlets and USB ports will easily enable the charging of digital accessories.
Some classrooms in the building will be of such size that partitions may be lowered to divide spaces and create additional teaching areas, said Julia E. Hodges, associate vice president of academic affairs.
Though a variety of sizes should help accommodate classroom demands, Hodges said no faculty classrooms will be located in the building and no department will be formally housed there.
"The multipurpose auditorium will have a wall that comes down from the ceiling and splits it into two areas," Hodges explained. "It will have state-of-the-art instructional technology that may be used as a teaching space, for musical performances, for speakers, or for varying sizes of classrooms."
"President Keenum said he wanted a building that the students would use and enjoy, so the new building will have a study group area, study rooms and seating areas," Hodges said.
"There will be a commons area like in Mitchell Memorial Library, and it will be staffed by the library to assist students with their studying needs," she said.
Though the building doesn't yet have name, Hodges joined Muzzi in predicting that it "will be a showpiece for the campus."
For more about MSU, visit www.msstate.edu.